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Closter Rabbi Runs Innovative Religious Approach

Adina Lewittes founded Shaar Communities in 2006. Photo Credit: Facebook
Lewittes takes Shaar to trips around the world to explore "The Gate of Travel." Photo Credit: Facebook
Rosie O'Donnell visits Shaar. Photo Credit: Facebook
Adina Lewittes is bringing Shaar Communities to Croatia this spring. Photo Credit: Adina Lewittes

CLOSTER, N.J. — The threshold of a synagogue is not the only entry point to Jewish life for Closter Rabbi Adina Lewittes.

Music, social action, study, travel and culture are all viable modalities of spirituality, and the rabbi is encouraging everyone to open their gates.

“We live in a do-it-yourself world, and that’s part of the experience of religion and spirituality also,” Lewittes said. “People want to guide their own spiritualties, and I’m responding by offering choices without sacrificing quality or affordability.”

In 2006, the rabbi founded Shaar Communities , an organization that she says reflects a different approach to Jewish life and engagement.

Shaar — which translates to “gates” — aims to connect Jewish people by providing different “gates” of engagement such as prayer, study, travel, social action or culture.

The idea is to offer an a la carte approach to Jewish life, the rabbi said.

“We try to provide alternatives to some of the more historic or legacy institutions and give people a sense of choice of how to engage Jewishly,” said Lewittes, who takes “congregants” to the banks of local rivers to pray, and encourages them to bring musical instruments to prayer sessions at each others homes.

Shaar Communities provides multiple entries to Jewish life and aims not to undermine tradition, rather to enhance it.

“We are part of a trend in broad world of religious communities trying to offer creative, innovative complements to traditional spaces," the rabbi said.

The idea is to teach people how to live as a Jew in the world, not just in a synagogue.

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve started seeing more and more of people looking beyond the traditional settings for opportunities to engage with Jewish learning and values,” Lewittes said.

“We’re seeing this not only in the New York and New Jersey area, but all over North America and all over the world. People want to have a say in what their Jewish lives look like.”

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