Rabbi Nancy H. Wiener, Hebrew Union College

Rabbi Nancy H. Wiener, D.Min, is the Clinical Director of the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling at Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.  She is the spiritual leader of the Pound Ridge Jewish Community, a Reform Chavurah in Pound Ridge, NY.  She holds a Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Counseling, a Masters Degree in Jewish History from Columbia University, and a Master of Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College.  She is a certified member of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains and has published three books on creating, celebrating, and maintaining long-term committed relationships.  Her books include Beyond Breaking the Glass: A Spiritual Guide to Your Jewish Wedding, Judaism for Two: A Spiritual Guide for Strengthening and Celebrating Your Loving Relationship, and Meeting at the Well: A Jewish Spiritual Guide to Being Engaged.  She has also authored articles on many topics including pastoral care, relationships, and GLBT issues in the Jewish Community.  It was a pleasure to sit down with the Rabbi Nancy Wiener at Hebrew Union College for the Voices of Pastoral Care audio series.

In this interview Rabbi Wiener explores the ways ancient Jewish ritual is relevant to modern couples.  She speaks of the distinction between people seeking organized religious groups and having a religious sensibility, yet not seeking to join a religious community.  She explores the ways young Jews are utilizing ancient ritual, while making it relevant to their daily lives (1:00).

Rabbi Wiener discusses how symbols carry deep meaning in our lives.  In reference to an example in her book, she discusses the use of Elijah’s cup from the Passover Meal being used throughout the year as a reminder that not all problems are quickly resolved in a relationship.  She also explores the power of the wedding ring as a symbol for married coupled going through difficult times (3:30).

Rabbi Wiener provides a wonderful example of how prayers from particular holidays, such as Yom Kippur can be used throughout the year at times when they are relevant (6:19).  Relating to this example in a hospital setting, she differentiates care provided as a chaplain in a hospital to congregational care with families over years and through shared experiences with congregants, such as funerals, baby naming ceremonies and bar/bat mitzvahs (11:20).

Relating to Rabbi Wiener’s work on ritual for gay and lesbian couples, she explores the ways the Reformed tradition has made the Jewish marriage document relevant both to same sex couples and to heterosexual couples who seek a more egalitarian marriage.  This translates into the ways that the marriage service is choreographed, so that the philosophical approach to marriage is reflected in the ritual (13:53).

Finally, Rabbi Wiener addresses some of the most pressing pastoral concerns of our time, such as the growing elder population, the questions of gender and sexuality which are currently relevant and will continue to be, issues pertaining to interfaith couples, and the pastoral challenges relating to rapidly changing technology (17:33).

Rabbi Wiener provides wonderful insight into pastoral care, both from the perspective of a rabbi to a congregation and as a hospital chaplain.  Her deep understanding of caring for long term committed relationships is reflected in this interview, and in her books.  Take a listen to Rabbi Wiener’s words of wisdom…

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/u/17367089/Wiener.mp3]

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