Rabbi Irwin Kula Author, 'Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of LIfe'

Known as both a provocative religious leader and a respected spiritual iconoclast, Irwin Kula has inspired thousands nationwide using Jewish wisdom in ways that speak to modern life. A renowned thinker, teacher, and rabbi, he is the author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life (Hyperion, Sept. 2006)  winner of a “Books for a Better Life” award, and selected by Spirituality & Health magazine as one the “10 Best Spiritual Books of 2006”  and was featured in a national public TV pledge special, “The Hidden Wisdom of Our Yearnings.” A 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.” A regular on NBC-TV’s The Today Show Kula offers a perspective often missing in the media. Named by both Fast Company magazine and “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” (PBS) as one of the new leaders shaping the American spiritual landscape, he was ranked four years in a row in the “Top 20 Rabbis in America,” by Newsweek. In 2004, he wrote and was featured in Time for a New God, an acclaimed documentary shown at film festivals nationwide. 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. In 2003, he hosted a first-ever 13-part public TV series produced by JTN Productions, “Simple Wisdom with Irwin Kula,” using Jewish wisdom to explore such life issues as relationships, money, work, and sex. Kula is the President of CLALThe National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center. A popular media spokesperson, he has appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor” (Fox News), was a repeat guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and was featured on “Frontline” (PBS) on the anniversary of 9/11, among many others. A panelist for the Washington Post/Newsweek ─ On Faith online column, he was a regular on the Hallmark Channel’s New Morning show. A nationally recognized educator and lecturer, Kula serves as a consultant to both corporate and family foundations, as well as to religious and philanthropic institutions and non-profit agencies on leadership development and institutional change. A sought-after speaker, 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. He is in great demand by leaders from such diverse fields as business, technology, relationships, and religion. Kula is the co-editor of The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices: CLAL’s Guide to Everyday & Holiday Rituals and Blessings (Jewish Lights, 2001), and co-founder of the Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living in Chicago. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from Columbia University, his B.H.L. from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTSA) in NY, and his M.A. in Rabbinics and Rabbinic Ordination from JTSA. He has served as rabbi of congregations in St. Louis, MO; Queens, NY; and Jerusalem, Israel. Email: ikula@clal.org

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