Rabbi Rex Perlmeter, founder and head of the Jewish Wellness Center in Montclair, will explore spirituality in the context of religious worship — and at times of intense personal pain — when he serves as scholar-in-residence at Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, Friday-Saturday, April 11-12.
In his talk during the Shabbat service on Friday evening, his topic will be “Can I Be Jewish, Religious, and Spiritual: Do I Have to Be?” Often, he told NJJN, “the distinction is made between religious structures and spirituality, as if they were mutually exclusive. But they can and should support and lift up one another.”
He plans, he said, to show how the worship ritual can draw out the element of spirituality that congregants often miss.
On Saturday, he will participate in the 9 a.m. service and will speak at the Lunch-and-Learn at noon, drawing on his own experience with tragedy; he and his wife, Rabbi Rachel Hertzman, who have three surviving children, lost their teenage son Mitchell in 2011 due to a heart issue. His topic will be “Staying Connected when Living and Loving Hurt: Teachings and Reflections on the Spiritual Significance of Suffering and Loss.”
“I draw on what happened not to indulge in my personal loss but to elucidate the Jewish rubric for the mourning experience and how it can help one make the journey to healing, and joy, and purpose,” he said.
Perlmeter served as a pulpit rabbi for 21 years, in Miami and then Baltimore, before moving on to become a spirituality and worship specialist at the Union for Reform Judaism in New York in 2010. From 2006, he has been affiliated with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality in New York City; he established the Jewish Wellness Center in 2012. Working from his home, he and the center’s associates present talks and workshops at synagogues and other institutions, exploring what Perlmeter calls shleimut — Hebrew for wholeness or wellness — through Jewish yoga, meditation, text study, counseling, and mindful worship.
The scholar-in-residence program is sponsored by the Charles A. Kroloff Fund for Jewish Learning. There is a $5 fee for a dairy lunch. For more information, contact Rabbi Sarah Smiley at 908-232-6770, ext. 139, or firstname.lastname@example.org.