New Age Judaism gets a bad rap. It’s namby-pamby, critics say — indulgent, narcissistic. Maybe it’s not even Jewish. Never mind the fact that the Havurah movement, Jewish Renewal and Neo-Hasidism have significantly shaped mainstream Jewish prayer life (chances are, your mainline synagogue’s Friday night tunes were first sung by a hippie in Birkenstocks) as well as much of contemporary Jewish social justice activism (with apologies to this publication’s venerable heritage, angry Jewish socialism is not what inspires today’s young activists; engaged spirituality and social justice is). Jewish spiritual innovators are told, even by our allies, that we’re “off the derech.”
I’ve responded to these criticisms before, and while they keep coming, I’m not going to do so again here — at least not in the usual, moderate, liberal way. I’m not going to argue that meditation makes us better people; I’ve already done that in these pages for years.