Yitzhak Buxbaum: "Introducing Myself"
My first love was Zoology and my original goal was to become a university professor. I received a B.S. in Biology from Cornell University in 1964 and then entered the PhD. program at the University of Michigan. Because of the turmoil surrounding the Vietnam War, all my goals and plans were transformed. I dropped out of school after receiving my M.S. in Zoology and passing my PhD. exams. From that time my direction changed, and I was seeking meaning in life. I began to read, first the world's great literature (something I'd not previously done) and then came to focus on Philosophy. I was in the PhD. program in Philosophy at Boston University for a year and a half. Finally I came to see that the place to discover meaning was in Religion, not Philosophy. I became Jewishly conscious and then turned to Religion.
After contact with Judaism through Martin Buber's writings and then Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, I entered a Lubavitcher yeshiva. I studied there for half a year; I entered as an atheist and came out a religious Jew. Later, I lived in Israel (Jerusalem) for two and a half years -- working, living, learning Hebrew. For almost thirty years I was close to Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, my Rebbe. I have been studying Torah intensively for all that time and have become knowledgable, particularly in Jewish Mysticism, Hasidism, and especially hasidic stories. Stories were an important part of my own entrance to Judaism, and as a result I became a "spiritual storyteller." Shlomo gave me s'micha (authorization) as a maggid (preacher and story-teller). Devoted to helping Jews see the beauty of Judaism, I have made efforts as a maggid, teaching and telling stories in synagogues, Y's, Hillel's etc. I have taught in settings of every denomination -- Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Havurah, Renewal.
I also teach courses in Jewish Mysticism at The New School for Social Research in New York City.
Aside from teaching and storytelling, my main effort has been in writing. I have nine books in print:
Real Davvening; An Open Heart: The Mystic Path of Loving People; A Tu BeShvat Seder; A Person is Like a Tree; Jewish Tales of Mystic Joy; Jewish Tales of Holy Women.; Jewish Spiritual Practices, The Life and Teachings of Hillel, and Storytelling and Spirituality in Judaism. My first book, Jewish Spiritual Practices, has been praised from one end of the Jewish spectrum to the other: in a Lubavitch hasidic magazine review; in the mainstream Israeli paper, The Jerusalem Post; by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner; and in Jewish Renewal circles (Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi gave my book to the Dalai Lama as a gift, when he and a delegation of rabbis visited him in India; this was written up in The Publishers' Weekly and elsewhere).
I sometimes describe myself as a "spiritual Jew." I try to be open, inclusive, and non-judgmental. My goal is be a Jew myself and to inspire people so as to help them become committed, spiritual Jews -- "spiritual," meaning that they know the essence of religion. I have friends across the Jewish religious spectrum. I have broad Jewish sympathies and also broad ecumenical sympathies. As a Jewish teacher, I try to provide a bridge not only between different kinds of Jews but also between Jews and people of other faiths. I could use your blessings to continue my work.