Sarmad the Magnificently Naked 17th-Century Jewish Mystic

Posted on January 8th, 2017
By Blake Smith for Tablet Magazine  


Jewish engagement with non-Western faiths is much older than any recent ‘JuBu’ fad


On Sept. 25, 1989, shortly before receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, the Dalai Lama held a historic meeting with Jewish religious leaders, marking a new era of dialogue between Judaism and Buddhism. Since that meeting 27 years ago, American Jews’ interest in Buddhism and other Asian spiritual traditions has grown significantly. Alongside millions of “JuBus” (Buddhist Jews) are figures like the Hindu guru Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert) and rabbis who incorporate South Asian chanting practices into their worship. While this Jewish engagement with non-Western faiths is sometimes praised and sometimes criticized as a uniquely modern expression of our globalizing culture, Jews have, in fact, been exploring Asian religions and spreading Jewish spiritual insights in Asia for hundreds of years.

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