KUSHNER, LAWRENCE (1943– ), U.S. Reform rabbi, theologian, author. Kushner was born in Detroit, Mich., and earned his B.A. from the University of Cincinnati in 1965. He was ordained at *Hebrew Union College in 1969, whereupon he became rabbinic fellow-in-residence at Congregation solel in Highland Park, Ill. He also taught at Lake Forest College and the University of Kentucky. In 1971, he assumed the pulpit of Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Mass., where he led his congregants to publish their own Sabbath and Festival Prayerbook, V'taher Libenu (Purify Our Hearts), the first gender-neutral Jewish liturgy ever written (1979). He also established a Tzedaka Collective, wherein members anonymously contribute 2% of their gross income to a common fund and determine its disbursement. In addition, Kushner was a visiting professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City (1986–2000), where he remained an adjunct member of the faculty. In 2002, Kushner was appointed scholar in residence at the Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco, where he teaches and writes about institutional and individual spiritual renewal. He also serves as visiting professor of Jewish Spirituality at the Graduate Theological University in Berkeley.
Kushner is credited with originating the concept of synagogue havurot – small family fellowship groups that draw on the resources of the larger congregation – a phenomenon that spread throughout the Reform movement and into Conservative Judaism. As the first rabbinic chairman of the *Union of American Hebrew Congregations-*Central Conference of American Rabbis' Commission on Religious Living (1987–93), he designed the summer kalla for Spiritual Renewal and has since conducted numerous adult and family kalla weekends for personal religious growth. He also co-directed the Conference on Jewish-Christian Spirituality (1987) and served on the uahc Board of Trustees.
Widely regarded as one of the most creative religious writers in America, Kushner has been a commentator on National Public Radio (1966–68). His articles have been published in many periodicals, and he has contributed to more than 20 books (including collaborating with Lawrence *Hoffman on Siddur Ami: My People's Prayerbook). He has co-authored six books and written 10, translated into six languages. They include God Was in This Place and I Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning (1991); Sparks Beneath the Surface: A Spiritual Commentary on the Torah (with Kerry Olitzky, 1993); The Book of Words: Talking Spiritual Life, Living Spiritual Talk (1994); Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary (1996); The Book of Miracles: A Young Person's Guide to Jewish Spirituality (1997); Eyes Remade for Wonder: A Lawrence Kushner Reader (1998); Kabbalah: The Way of Light (1999); Because Nothing Looks Like God (with Karen Kushner, 2000); The Way Into Jewish Mystical Tradition (2001); Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians (2001); Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (with David Mamet, 2003); Filling Words With Light: Ḥasidic and Spiritual Refractions of Jewish Prayer (with Nehemiah Polen, 2004); In God's Hands (with Gary Schmidt, 2005); and Kabbalah: A Love Story (2006).
[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]