Irwin Kula is not your typical rabbi. Known as both a provocative religious leader and a respected spiritual iconoclast, he has inspired thousands nationwide using Jewish wisdom in ways that speak to folks in all walks of modern life.
As a renowned thinker, teacher, rabbi, author and leader of religious pluralism, Kula says that the "Freedom and openness of America invites us to bring our traditions to the marketplace of ideas. The challenge is to translate these wisdoms into accessible American idioms that inspire and improve our personal and public lives."
Kula was ranked two years in a row (no. 8, and no. 7, respectively) in the "Top 50 Rabbis in America," in Newsweek and in 2004, he wrote and was featured in Time for a New God, an acclaimed documentary that was filmed as a moving monologue along the beaches, wharves, and roller coasters of Coney Island. He offers religion as a "giant tool box" for personal and social transformation.
He has worked with such luminaries as the Dalai Lama and Queen Noor on compassionate leadership, and has traveled and taught Jewish wisdom in places as diverse as France, Italy, Bhutan, and Rwanda.
Inglourious Basterds - “It goes where no Holocaust film has gone before. It’s a meditation on vengeance and the cost of not owning our murderous rage. It’s either kosher porn or the first stage of healing an unbearable trauma.” As for its writer/director Quentin Tarantino, “I wouldn’t want to be inside his mind but I'm really glad to benefit from his genius.”
Braveheart - “This film, starring Mel Gibson, is a heroic story in which the hero does not need to see his dream realized to be successful. It shows that genuine freedom actually requires living with great commitment, obligation, and responsibility, and it is love that ultimately powers us.”
American Beauty - “This film, starring Kevin Spacey, powerfully shows the pathology of American consumerism, driven by endless and mindless material desires, while at the same time showing the possibility of individualism, resistance and the beauty that is always present if we would only look beyond appearances.”
The Bible - “There is no book with stories that have a wider range of emotions – lust to love and murder to grace.”
A Theory of Everything - “This book, by Ken Wilber, maps every thought system of the last 100 years and shows the partial truth in every single view.”
King David - “He had passion, courage, and a love for God and life. He could also sin big - adultery and murder - and when confronted immediately come clean with no excuses, even though he was the king.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. - “He challenged our country using our country's own self definition and vision as the standard. He asked us to live up not to some external demand but to the ideals that we ourselves fashioned.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel - “He was a theologian and philosopher who understood that the greatest art is the constructing of our life and that ultimately our task is to see meaning in the absurdity of life which we do by taking care of the most vulnerable.”
Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg - “He is the founder of the Holocaust Museum in DC, an author and a great teacher. He was the first to give me permission to think about this time being a new moment in history and the implications for re-imagining Judaism as a wisdom open to anyone.”
“Walk the bridges, specifically the George Washington Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. You get a different perspective on the city when you come in and out, cross over and back, or stand in between.”
Rubin Museum - “The old Barney's has been transformed into a peaceful sanctuary of Himalayan art. You’ll want to move in there.”
92nd Street Y - “This is a landmark cultural center that has the widest range of offerings in the city.”
Lower East Side - “One can feel in the streets and see on the signs and buildings the layers of culture and ethnicities of a hundred years of different immigrations, while at the same time experience the recent explosion of music and art, boutiques and clubs that have made it one of the hip neighborhoods in NYC.”
Central Park - “It is an urban oasis in which people from every place on the planet recreate. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon you can hear a dozen forms of music and see artists of all types. The modes of transportation range from unicycles and horse and buggies to elaborate racing bikes. You can see people of all ages and lovers of all stripes. And you can see green.”
"For food I go anywhere that is intimate, cheap, ethnic and has people already in there. I mostly find these places in the East Village. I particularly like Mitali East for Indian food. I’ve been going here since I was 18 years old.”
Jerusalem - “It’s the sacred meeting place of 3 great religions and filled with combustible energy.”
Bhutan - “It's physically and visually the most spectacular place I’ve ever visited. The entire time you’re between 6,000 and 13,000 feet high, which means you’re always seeing the world from a higher perspective.”
Rwanda - “You’re constantly reminded here that as a human being you’re connected to the bottom billion no matter how much you try to escape that.”