Beacons of Hope: Our Interreligious S/Heroes Beacons of Hope: Our Interreligious S/Heroes — Tara Brach

By David Mahfouda

Every month, we honor an individual (or group) who inspires the bridge-building efforts of the Miller Center. Each honoree uniquely embodies the values of inclusivity, justice, and compassion. Tara Brach, the American psychologist and popular author, is our Beacon of Hope for the month of March. 

Tara Brach is an American psychologist, author, and founder of the Insight Meditation community in Washington DC. Tara is my interreligious hero—not on account of any specific work she has done to build bridges between faith communities—though her work regularly unites people across faith—but because of her promotion of the values that animate our religious commitments: justice, peace, compassion, and understanding—irrespective of creed. She’s made and continues to make practical, loving, and deep spirituality accessible to millions. Perhaps it would be more apt to say simply: Tara is my hero. Of the many ways I’ve been influenced by Tara, I’ll share two:

I went through a painful breakup in 2020. One of the medicines I self-prescribed was a daily walk through Prospect Park in Brooklyn, listening to Tara’s podcast. I’d walk, listen, and weep. I think I found these sessions with Tara’s teaching so healing because of Tara’s gentle insistence on accepting our own emotional realities, regardless of what they may be. She helped me relate to myself with kindness and honesty.

Tara’s talks were also a significant part of what made me want to pursue rabbinic ordination. After spending time with her teachings, I’d consistently recognize a shift in “frame”—I began seeing the world differently. For lack of a better term, I would describe it as a spiritual shift. I found that I was experiencing more beauty and depth, which helped me move through the world with greater peace and grace. I said to myself, “I want to stay here, in this place of fearless acceptance”—or maybe I should simply say “this place of acceptance.” Tara would likely encourage us to welcome our fear as well.

David (he/him) is a shanah aleph (1st year) rabbinical student and teaching fellow at Hebrew College, and a student rabbi at Congregation Or HaTzafon in Fairbanks, Alaska. Prior to attending Hebrew College, David was an artist and curator at the Proteus Gowanus Gallery in Brooklyn, where he co-founded the Fixers Collective—an anarchist repair community that gathered weekly to fix broken things. David was also the co-founder and CEO of Bandwagon, an environmental tech company that organized shared taxi rides from NYC airports.

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