A New CLAL?

Last night, New York’s PBS station broadcast The Hidden Wisdom of Our Yearnings with Irwin Kula, a two-hour premiere of Rabbi Kula’s attempt to bring pop-Jewish wisdom to the American masses.

Kula is the president of CLAL–The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, which after its founding in 1974, became a leader in the charge to build a pluralistic, intellectually serious, forward-thinking American Judaism.

According to its website, CLAL does the following:

– Stimulates volunteer, professional and rabbinic leadership to build responsive Jewish communities across North America.

– Helps individuals to imagine new Jewish possibilities.

– Promotes inclusive Jewish communities in which all voices are heard.

– Convenes interdisciplinary conversations that explore the Jewish and American futures.

– Enhances Jewish participation in civic and spiritual life in North America.

But based on what CLAL is currently featuring on its homepage, it looks like the organization is going in a different direction. The main part of the homepage is overlayed with an enormous blue banner announcing the following:

See Irwin Kula in the new two hour public TV special “The Hidden Wisdom of Our Yearnings”

Watch Irwin Kula’s Most Recent Appearance on NBC’s The Today Show Speaking About Gratitude

New radio show î º Hirschfield and Kula, Intelligent Talk Radio to launch on KXL in Portland, OR, Sat., Dec. 2, 2006 at Midnight

Conceived by and Featuring Brad Hirschfield, First-Ever Interfaith Series Airing on Bridges TV Network—American Muslim TV

Remembering for Life, a new book edited by Brad Hirschfield,
now available to rabbis and synagogues!

Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life, a new book by Irwin Kula, now available!

I don’t want to make too many assumptions based on a close reading of a homepage, but there seems to be some indication that CLAL — which is Hebrew for (something like) “community” — is becoming a platform for the media blitz of two individuals: Kula and (Vice President) Hirschfield.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this, but I’m curious if this is indeed a change in mission and how this change came about.

How was Kula’s TV show? More on that later.

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