In Exile Together -- A Dialogue of Faith
From the earliest days of Schachter-Shalomi's career, he has been involved in ecumenical dialogue with leaders and practitioners of other spiritual paths, from Trappist monks to Sufi sheikhs. These frequent forays into what was then "forbidden territory" led Schachter-Shalomi to describe himself as a "spiritual peeping-Tom." But, far from being a mere browser, Schachter-Shalomi became deeply learned in the most minute aspects of the theory and experiential practice of these traditions, praying matins with the monks and performing dhikr with the Sufis.
This deeply personal approach to "dialogue" led to significant friendships with many of the world's great spiritual teachers, including Father Thomas Merton, Reverend Howard Thurman, Pir Vilayat Inayat-Khan, Ken Wilber, and the 14th Dalai Lama.
The twin peaks of this ecumenical work had to do with the increasingly significant dialogue between Jews and Buddhists. Always sensitive and sympathetic to Jewish involvement in eastern traditions, in 1990, Schachter-Shalomi was invited to a meeting in Dharamsala, India between the Dalai Lama and Jewish leaders to discuss how Tibetan Buddhists might "survive in exile," as Jews had done for almost 2000 years. This dialogue, and Schachter-Shalomi's remarkable influence upon it, became the focus of a best-selling book by Rodger Kamenetz, called The Jew in the Lotus. Immediately, the book became a catalyst for Jewish-Buddhist dialogue and the sensitive issue of why so many American Jews were involved in so-called "Eastern" spiritual paths.
In 1995, Schachter-Shalomi was invited to take up the World Wisdom Chair at Naropa University, the only accredited Buddhist-inspired university in the Western hemisphere. The World Wisdom Chair holder is an exemplary scholar-practitioner of a world religion or humanistic discipline, serving as special guide and elder to the Naropa community, providing for the integration of world wisdom traditions with modern culture. Thus, Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado became home to Schachter-Shalomi and a new phase of his teaching career. By the time of his retirement from Naropa in 2004, he had influenced thousands of students and spiritual seekers of all backgrounds, inspired a new Contemplative Judaism program, and donated a permanent legacy of archival material to the university.
Today, Schachter-Shalomi is retired and living happily in Boulder, Colorado with his wife Eve, and his two cats, Mazel and Brakhah.
(Thanks to The Reb Zalman Legacy Project for the biography)
As the daughter, niece, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of rabbis, Talia Davis has been immersed in Jewish culture and communities throughout her life. She has lived in Israel and served as the Religious and Cultural Vice President of the Southeast Region of North American Federation of Temple Youth. Presently she enjoys attending synagogue at a variety of shuls that range from Chabad Orthodox to her father's post-denominational, Rocky Mountain Hai.