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Gefen, Nan Fink

GEFEN, Nan Fink

PERSONAL:

Female. Education: Received Ph.D. Religion: Jewish.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Chochmat HaLev, 2215 Prince St., Berkeley, CA 94705; fax: 510-704-1767. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Chochmat HaLev: A Center for Jewish Spirituality, Berkeley, CA, cofounder and president; Tikkun magazine, cofounder.

WRITINGS:

Stranger in the Midst: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery, BasicBooks (New York, NY), 1997.

Discovering Jewish Meditation: Instruction and Guidance for Learning an Ancient Spiritual Practice, Jewish Lights (Woodstock, VT), 1999.

Contributor to books, including Meditation from the Heart of Judaism: Today's Teachers Share Their Practices, Techniques, and Faith, by Avram Davis, Jewish Lights (Woodstock, VT), 1999; and The Women's Seder Sourcebook, edited by Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, Tara Mohr, and Catherine Spector, Jewish Lights (Woodstock, VT), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS:

Nan Fink Gefen, cofounder and retreat leader for Chochmat HaLev: A Center for Jewish Spirituality, in Berkeley, California, introduces readers to Jewish meditation in Discovering Jewish Meditation: Instruction and Guidance for Learning an Ancient Spiritual Practice. The first section of the book answers commonly asked questions about the nature of Jewish meditation, relates its history, and explains how it is different from other forms of meditation, such as those practiced by Buddhists and Hindus. The second section describes thirteen simple meditations and explains their connection to Judaism and Jewish mysticism. The final chapters discuss the rewards and challenges that might arise once a meditative practice is established, along with suggestions for working through them.

Since the 1960s Eastern styles of meditation have gained considerable attention in the United States, but most Americans have remained unaware of Jewish meditation, which is "decidedly Godoriented," according to Debra Nussbaum Cohen, writing in New York Jewish Week, "and while there is a component of quieting the mind, the goal is to fill it with a contemplative or ecstatic appreciation of the Divine." Jewish meditation is much more vocal than Buddhist meditation, and involves chanting and other forms of vocalization; it "enhances, rather than replaces, traditional ways of communing with God," explained Cohen. Chochmat HaLev certifies new instructors in Jewish meditation after they complete a three-year program; Gefen's book serves as an introduction to what is taught more thoroughly at the school. While a Publishers Weekly contributor felt that Discovering Jewish Meditation does not replace Aryeh Kaplan's Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide as the standard in the field, the critic nevertheless felt it is "a worthwhile addition to the Jewish library."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 2000, George Cohen, review of Discovering Jewish Meditation: Instruction and Guidance for Learning an Ancient Spiritual Practice, p. 837.

Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, March 28, 2003, Alexandra J. Wall, "Wisdom and Stories … of Area Women Infuse Two New Passover Guides," section A, p. 10; July 14, 2000, Sue Fishkoff, "Chochmat Training a Generation of Meditation Teachers," section A, p. 31.

New York Jewish Week, February 2, 2001, Debra Nussbaum Cohen, "From 'Om' to 'Shema,': Up Close; Long on the Margins, Jewish Meditation Is Now Emerging in the Mainstream. But Exactly What Is It?," p. 1.

Publishers Weekly, November 29, 1999, review of Discovering Jewish Meditation, p. 67.

ONLINE

Chochmat HaLev Web site,http://www.chochmat.org/ (August 15, 2004).

Jewish Lights Publishing Web site,http://www.jewishlights.com/ (August 15, 2004).

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