Honoring the Life of a Mystic: The Teachings of Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man, A Contemplative Day of Learning

We will gather to honor the teachings we have received from our beloved Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man. His students, and his treasured partner, Nan Fink Gefen, will share the texts and lessons that have most deeply influenced their lives. There will be time for discussion in chevruta (study partners) and ample contemplative space for silence and melody. 

Bring your personal vegetarian lunch to eat in the garden from 12:15 – 1:10 pm.

We would love for you to join us for the whole day, but feel free to come for part of the day. 

9:50 Find seats
10:00 Welcome by Chochmat HaLev
10:02 R’SaraLeya Schley – introduction to the day
10:05 R’Burt Jacobson’s eulogy of Jonathan – read by R’Diane Elliot
10:15 Nan Gefen – teaching and meditation
10:45 R’Margie Jacobs – teaching and meditation
11:15 Lyle Poncher – teaching and meditation
11:45 Jeffrey Kessler – teaching – and introduction to mindful eating

12:15-1:10 Lunch – You are invited to bring your own vegetarian lunch and beverages into the silent contemplative space (outside under pergola) or quiet intentional conversation (indoors and designated outside tables). 

1:15 R’SaraLeya Schley – re-gather, introduce afternoon schedule
1:20 R’Dorothy Richman – teaching, meditation
1:50 R’Anne Brener – read eulogy from funeral and teaching
2:20 R’SaraLeya Schley , teaching, contemplative hevruta
2:50-3:15 Nan Gefen – concluding words and meditation

Date: Sunday, September 10
The sessions will be live streamed over Zoom.

UPDATE: Registration is now ONLY for those joining via Zoom. If you’d like to join in-person, you are welcome to register at the door.

Free for members. Suggested donation: $18 – $72. Please register in advance.

Organizer: Rabbi SaraLeya Schley


Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, rabbi emerita of Chochmat HaLev, was ordained in 2005 at the ALEPH Ordination Program, for whom she currently teaches the Integral Halakha Responsa Workshop. She is a senior rabbinic fellow of the Hartman Institute and continues to teach in various Renewal communities, including Chochmat HaLev, Wilderness Torah and Torah of Awakening.


Nan Fink Gefen was born and raised in a small town near San Francisco. After beginning college in California, she married, moved east and had three children. After earning a Ph.D. from Ohio State University she had a private psychotherapy practice in Ohio.

In the mid-1980s she returned to Berkeley, Calif. There she converted to Judaism, wrote a book about the experience, Stranger in the Midst: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery, and co-founded Tikkun magazine. After leaving Tikkun she taught classes about Jewish meditation and spiritual practice. That led her to help establish Chochmat HaLev.

Over the next 12 years she mentored students and led workshops. From this experience she wrote Discovering Jewish Meditation. She’s also published short fiction and another non-fiction book, It Never Ends: Mothering Middle-aged Daughters, as well as a novel, Clear Lake.In 2007 she became the founding editor and publisher of Persimmon Tree: An Online Magazine of the Arts by Women Over Sixty, associated with Mills College. With her late husband, Jonathan Omer-Man, she raised a blended family of seven children, which now also includes 10 grandchildren.

[ Edited from her website: https://www.nangefen.com/biography/ ]


Jonathan Omer-Man, a rabbi and pioneer in Jewish meditation who died this year at age 89, was born Derek Orlans in Portsmouth, UK, in 1934. He spent years working on a kibbutz in Israel before his legs were paralyzed by polio. After moving to Jerusalem he found various jobs as an electrician, teacher and in the publishing industry, before he was captivated by the study of Jewish mysticism in his mid-30s.

Omer-Man received a private rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal movement. In 1981, he moved to Los Angeles, where the Los Angeles Hillel council invited him to set up an outreach program for “religiously alienated Jews” — specifically those interested in faiths like Hinduism and Buddhism 

In 1990, Omer-Man was part of a delegation of Jews, including rabbis of various denominations, who went to Dharamshala, India for a famous interfaith dialogue with the Dalai Lama, exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhism. That gathering is described in Rodger Kamenetz’s best-selling book, “The Jew in the Lotus.”

Omer-Man also founded Metivta, an egalitarian, nondenominational Jewish community in Los Angeles emphasizing study of Jewish texts and meditation. He rooted his lessons and techniques in Jewish mystical traditions, including the Kabbalah and the teachings of Hasidic masters.

In 1999, Omer-Man helped found the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, which develops and teaches Jewish spiritual practices including meditation, yoga, Torah study, song and niggunim (wordless melodies). He also wrote essays, short fiction and verse, and taught and lectured widely.

[ Edited from an obituary published by the JTA ]


Sep 10 2023


10:00 am - 4:00 pm


Chochmat Halev
2215 Prince Street
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