Shalom Friends, I’m writing this to you on a cold January day. It can be so easy to curl up, absorbed with distressing news from around the world. While the Open Dor Project communities can't solve all of our global challenges, I’m continuously moved by the pervasive sense of possibility, patience, and optimism from the community members and leaders. I want to share a poem with you, “At Blackwater Pond” by Mary Oliver: At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled after a night of rain. I dip my cupped hands. I drink along time. It tastes like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold into my body, waking the bones. I hear them deep inside me, whispering oh what is this beautiful thing that just happened? In “At Blackwater Pond,” Mary Oliver captures the feeling of a sense of quiet and presence after a period of intensity—as she calls it, rain. The poignant appreciation at the end of the poem for a moment of beauty echoes the sense of recognition I have seen among Open Dor Project community members during community gatherings. It’s a sense of appreciation that can come from a spiritual moment of recognition that I’ve witnessed over and over again in my visits to the Open Dor Project communities. L’shalom,
Rabbi Ana Bonnheim Director, Open Dor Project
Since joining the Open Dor community, our work at the Den has taken on a life we could never have imagined. What began as a small experiment in Washington’s Maryland suburbs in 2016 has since grown into a city-wide collective of Jewish activity co-led by two community rabbis stationed on either side of the Potomac. Our project operated for three years as a collaborative initiative started by a consortium of synagogues in the metro area seeking to create meaningful spaces for people they were not yet reaching. Last summer we launched our brand and website, which have helped articulate the work we had been doing since 2016. Our methodology of community-building at the Den has always been grassroots; our gatherings are co-created with our community members and a result of community organizing and intentional listening. Through that process we continue to learn that people yearn to discover themselves, to be seen by others, and to exercise their heart as much as they exercise their mind. Our latest activity has been focused on the development of intimate learning cohorts that join study with soul-exploration. Our three-part learning series in the fall explored Jewish texts on issues of self-compassion, friendship, and sexual ethics; a new cohort on mindful masculinity began this week to study Jewish imperatives of gender and power as they play out in our lives; and we continue to learn regularly with our weekly and monthly cohorts that discuss theology, rituals, and the weekly Torah portion.
One of the newest initiatives we’re most excited about is our monthly singing circle on Saturday evenings. We bring together the Den musicians for a soul-break much needed in this work driven city, where around 30 people usher out Shabbat in a cozy living room somewhere in the DC area to let music lead our hearts and open us up. Some traditional Jewish melodies, some music related to themes of the calendar or Torah reading, some good American folk music, and a collective deep breath. We envision so much more, which we know we’ll need more rabbis to accomplish. Our vision of an integrated rabbinic team working as relational professionals throughout the region means placing three to five more community rabbis throughout the DC area to bring together the intimate, welcoming, sacred encounters of the Den Collective to a wider community in our region. Stay with us on the journey. Rabbi Aderet Drucker & Rabbi Rami Schwartzer Co-Directors, The Den Collective