We sat down with Ryn Silverstein, the latest addition to the Haggadot.com team, to discuss ritual, Jewish life, and Ryn's new role. Here's what they had to say:
Tell me about an early memory of a special ritual.
When I was quite young, my family had a regular meditation practice. Sometimes, family friends would come over to our house and we’d all meditate together. I remember being around seven or eight years old and just sitting silently on the couch with my eyes closed for upwards of thirty minutes at a time—maybe that sounds impressive but I honestly spent most of that time daydreaming instead of practicing nonattachment to my thoughts. Either way, it was always a special time where I felt I could really rest and let my mind wander without any other responsibilities. Even at that young age, I began to feel connected to something beyond myself, and I think it was also vital in nurturing my ability to think creatively, which was essential in a space without distractions like tv or video games!
What excites you about being the first Community Manager at Haggadot.com?
I see Haggadot.com as the best kind of potluck, one where everyone brings a really special dish to share and it’s possible to combine different foods together to make something unique and delicious. This community is made up of so many brilliant people, each of whom has their own take on rituals that can make Jewish life more intentional, diverse, and inclusive for us all. It’s an honor to be the first Community Manager, and I’m thrilled to have the space and creative freedom to innovate and to work with so many amazing people.
What are you looking forward to creating in this role?
I’m especially excited to bring my ritual expertise to this role in creating more LGBTQ+ content, rituals for social justice, and rituals to support creativity and connect with one’s soul purpose. Rituals connect us to something beyond ourselves, whether that’s community, divinity, or a greater sense of meaning in life. I sincerely believe that within every experience lies a ritual just waiting to be created.
What’s a ritual that’s close to your heart?
In 2019, I received ordination from the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute, which is a feminist ritual leadership training program that focuses on embodied experience and earth-based Judaism. As part of my training, I developed and led a queer full moon ritual for the month of Tammuz. As Tammuz is traditionally a month tinged with grief in preparation for the traditional mourning day of Tisha b’Av several weeks afterwards, the kavanah, or intention, of the ritual was twofold: to connect with the grief so many of us were feeling and continue to feel around white supremacy, climate change, and other important issues while simultaneously replenishing ourselves for the work still to come. The ritual itself centered around handwashing, a traditional Jewish practice of cleansing and purification, and participants said afterwards that they came away feeling refreshed and renewed.
What would you change about Jewish life?
To my mind, much of Jewish life today is still very focused on a narrow understanding of Jewish continuity, that is, the focus on replicating a very specific kind of Jewish identity that can exclude patrilineal Jews, Jews of Color, LGBTQ Jews, interfaith families, and Jews-by-choice, among others. Driving this exclusion is the fear that Jewish life is changing beyond recognition. But while Jewish life is indeed changing, isn’t that cause for celebration? I for one welcome a more diverse and inclusive Judaism that creates room for and celebrates the multiplicity of our identities and perspectives. And here at Haggadot.com, we’re creating and curating rituals to do just that.
How are you hoping to build relationships with our community of users?
I’m looking forward to connecting with this community by reaching out to those who are already engaged in creating ritual content, whether that’s Passover-focused, related to everyday spirituality, or for the High Holidays, and cultivating those relationships as well as inviting those who are engaged Haggadot.com users but not necessarily content creators into deeper relationship with us on a communal level. I hope to do this through webinars, one on one podcast conversations, and further developing our communal space.