Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell is changing the face of Judaism in Chicago, reaching across denominational and age barriers to make Judaism relevant and meaningful. "His work is on the cutting edge of the emerging interest in the integration of Mindfulness Meditation and Judaism," said Jane Talesnick, a congregant and student, in her nomination.
"Jordan saw that there was a need in the Chicago area for another entryway into Jewish life, and he has worked tirelessly to fill that void," Talesnick said. "He is a true builder of bridges."
Rabbi Bendat-Appell founded The Center for Jewish Mindfulness-Chicago, an organization dedicated to helping Chicago Jews find relevancy and meaning. He integrates Torah with mindfulness meditation and other contemplative practices. Previously, he served as the rabbi of Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living for three years.
His teachings have reached "extremely diverse groups of people," according to Talesnick. Rabbi Bendat-Appell has been asked to teach at Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Modern Orthodox synagogues as well as Jewish Day Schools and other communal organizations. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Chicago Board of Rabbis.
Pays the bills:
The Institute for Jewish Spirituality and the Center for Jewish Mindfulness, Chicago
On the side:
Drinking coffee, backpacking, yoga, parenting (in no particular order)
Describe yourself in 10 words or less:
Today is the best day to live: love, serve, rejoice
How do you Jew in Chicago?
? I love being engaged in different synagogue communities including Aitz Hayim, my former congregation, and Beth El in Highland Park. I am on the Chicago Board of Rabbis Executive Committee, and I especially love teaching through the Center for Jewish Mindfulness throughout the Chicago Jewish community.
Spending time with my kids – Adin, 4, and Orli, 6 months, and my wife, Yael. Practicing Jewish meditation, yoga, and learning Torah with friends. Also, playing Frisbee and enjoying a good Belgian beer.
How do you give back?
I try to serve the Chicago Jewish community as best as I can: through participating in service projects within the community, through teaching Jewish mindfulness meditation, which really helps us live well, and through trying to bring a quality of attention and responsiveness into my everyday interactions with others. I believe tikkun olam is both big and small – that is, it occurs through large community and social actions as well as through the seemingly small interactions and experiences we have every day as human beings.
Fill in the blank: If time and money were limitless, I would:
buy a small cottage in the mountains on a lake and write.
Chicago's Jewish community in 10 years:
In 10 years, the Chicago Jewish community will be the national center for inspiring, engaged Jewish spirituality. People will travel to Chicago to learn how Judaism can be a mindfulness practice – a way of truly helping us live with attentiveness, presence, compassionate service and joy.
Me in 10 years:
Still learning. But, as now, still smiling and feeling so blessed to be part of such a wonderful community.