This month I interviewed Hebrew Seminary faculty member Rabbi Cantor Rob Jury.
Since your May 2012 ordination from Hebrew Seminary, your career has taken two paths – Rabbi of Anshe Tikvah in Wheeling and Staff Chaplain at Advocate’s Addiction Treatment Program. Can you tell us how one led to the other and how your Hebrew Seminary education prepared you?
I see them as one single path with interwoven skill sets. I encounter people with addictions in synagogue life every day. Every synagogue has people facing addictions whether a family member or a close friend. The disease of addiction is everywhere.
Addictions work is all about healing, spiritual healing. The body, the mind and the soul are attacked by the disease of addiction. This is largely recognized by the medical community and the 12-step community recognizes it as a disease of the body, mind and soul. It just so happens that I studied healing at Hebrew Seminary and I wrote my thesis on Kabbalistic healing prayer.
If we’re honest about it, we are all addicted to something, be it drugs, food, sex, or computer gambling. We all have that thing that we go to when we are running away from the world on its own terms and hiding from God.
Can you tell us more about “hiding from God?”
Adam and Eve knew what they were doing wasn’t right so they hid from God. Many of us aren’t honest about what we are hiding from but the impact on our soul is the same.
You took pastoral theology at Hebrew Seminary and you continue to explore Kabbalistic healing modalities with Hebrew Seminary President Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer. Can you share a bit about how healing prayer and spirituality guides and supports the people you serve?
I took pastoral theology at Hebrew Seminary from Rabbi Eisenbach and he introduced to us clinical pastoral education (CPE). He encouraged me to take a CPE unit which I did at Lutheran General. That was my opportunity to apply in a medical setting all the things that Rabbi Goldhamer and Rabbi Eisenbach were teaching me. I later did a one-year, 2,000 hour residency at Lutheran General. At this point I had five units of CPEs which allowed me to work on my day off from the synagogue as a staff Chaplain at a medical site. I then went through the process of becoming a Board Certified Chaplain with the National Association of Jewish Chaplains and the Association of Professional Chaplains.
One of my more important clinical learning moments was bedside in a hospital. The family had a loved one who was in critical condition. We weren’t going to know their medical status for 24 hours. One of the physicians said, “This is the time for a miracle. If a miracle is going to happen, this is when it is going to happen. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If in 24 hours the miracle doesn’t happen, it is time for science. Then we’ll have a medical conversation.” When it is the time for a miracle I engage in Kabbalistic prayer with the family and the patient. When G-d answers yes we celebrate. Sometimes the answer isn’t yes. That’s when we engage in pastoral care.
Rabbi Goldhamer and I are currently focusing our prayer studies on Psalms and the energies of Psalms; how to integrate Psalms into Kabbalistic prayers to give them an energetic boost.
What are your regular prayer and meditation practices? Can you teach our readers a meditation that might be a good introduction to integrating a prayerful pause into a busy life?
I do traditional Jewish prayer every day, three times a day. In addition to that I do hitbodedut meditation as taught by Rabbi Nachman. You can do hitbodedut for an hour or a minute. Here’s a short version:
Stop whatever you are doing. Take a deep breath and thank G-d for any two blessings in your life, ask G-d to help you with any two material things, ask G-d to help in any two spiritual ways, ask God to help humanity in any two ways, then say, “Thank You G-d.”
Can you recommend a good translation of Rabbi Nachman’s work on this topic?
Rav Ozer Bergman’s Where Heaven and Earth Kiss
You recently received a JUF grant. Can you tell us about that?
Anshe Tikva received a $25,000 JUF Breakthrough Grant to research faith-based sober homes and how to open a Jewish sober home.
As part of this research I brought a group of people to Beit T’Shuvah in Los Angeles where members of the congregation were able to see what spiritual recovery looks like and how Jewish spiritual prayer can bring about healing of the soul. We want to have a sober home here to provide the same kind of Jewish environment in a sober home. This Jewish spiritual environment is what Rabbi Goldhamer’s teachings are about, it just looks different in a different setting. Rabbi’s teachings apply to all healing — This is For Everyone.
You are a Class of 2017 Northwestern University Masters of Counseling and Psychology graduate! Tell us about your career vision.
My vision comes out of Rabbi Goldhamer’s vision to expand people’s access to Jewish healing, with the synagogue being the central access point of Jewish healing.
Rabbi Cantor Rob Jury lives in Evanston with his wife Rachel, sons Max and Elijah and daughter Anna. He is also a Worship Leader for the Council of Jewish Elderly and Community Rabbi on the Advisory Council of the Jewish Center on Addictions.