We welcomed you to join Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill, Executive Director of The BTS Center, for a lunchtime “Let’s Talk!” conversation with Rabbi Natan Margalit, author of The Pearl and the Flame: A Journey into Jewish Wisdom and Ecological Thinking and founder of the non-profit Organic Torah.
Rabbi Margalit chairs the Rabbinic Texts Department and directs the Earth-Based Judaism track of the Aleph Ordination Program, and in his book, published in 2022 by Albion-Andalus Books, he asks important questions: How can we find wholeness in a world that is fragmenting? What are the ways forward in the face of the climate crisis, epidemics of addiction, and political and social upheaval? Can we reconnect to our spiritual traditions differently and at the same time harmonize these traditions with new trends in science? Rabbi Margalit believes that Judaism, along with other Indigenous and traditional wisdom, has the potential to offer the healing, integration, connection, and meaning we most need in this moment.
Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes, “Rabbi Margalit reveals the root cause of all our suffering, environmental and social: the mistaken notion that we humans are apart from rather than a part of a greater wholeness. Drawing on contemporary science and ancient wisdom, The Pearl and the Flame introduces us to a vibrant Judaism that overcomes this existential error and offers us a way to embrace all life in the greater Aliveness that is God.”
As The BTS Center seeks to cultivate and nurture spiritual leadership for a climate-changed world, we enjoyed this conversation with Rabbi Margalit — an opportunity to explore Jewish wisdom and ecological thinking and to consider the role of religious teaching and practice in a time of crisis and transformation.
View the conversation below, recorded on May 11, 2023:
Rabbi Natan Margalit was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. As a young adult, he lived for twelve years in Israel and received rabbinic ordination at The Jerusalem Seminary in 1990. He earned a Ph.D. in Talmud from UC Berkeley in 2001. Natan has taught at Bard College, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College.
Rabbi Margalit is the author of The Pearl and the Flame: A Journey into Jewish Wisdom and Ecological Thinking. He is a member of the Va’ad (steering committee and core faculty) of the Aleph Ordination Program, and serves as chair of their Rabbinic Texts department. He is also the Director of the AOP’s Earth-Based Judaism Program.
Natan is Founder of Organic Torah, a 501c3 non-profit educational organization which seeks to bring much needed ancient wisdom to face environmental, social, and spiritual challenges and bring about a healthier, more just and joyous world. He lives with his wife, two sons, and their dog, Pele (named for the Hebrew word for wonder, and also the Hawaiian goddess, not the soccer player) in Newton, Massachusetts.
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill (he/him) serves as Executive Director of The BTS Center, a private operating foundation in Portland, Maine, building on the legacy of the former Bangor Theological Seminary. Ordained in the Methodist tradition, Allen served local churches for 20 years, and as founding Executive Director of Hope Acts, a Portland, Maine nonprofit focusing on housing asylum seekers and helping immigrants succeed.
A graduate of the University of Maine and of Boston University School of Theology, Allen has recently completed a Doctor of Ministry program through Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC and Wesley House, Cambridge UK.
In addition to nonprofit and congregational leadership, he has extensive experience in advocacy, direct action, and faith-based organizing around issues of justice and equity. Allen lives in Portland with his spouse, Rev. Sara Ewing-Merrill, and they are the parents of three daughters.