Cutler, the spiritual leader of Congregation Tiferes B’nai Israel in Warrington, Pa., for eight years, has been serving in Iraq since November as a US Navy commander.
only Jewish Navy and Marine chaplain in Iraq, he is attempting to create a “viable Jewish community” at the five US Navy bases in western Iraq with Shabbat services, learning programs and even a bet midrash.
Still Cutler, in his early 50s, is staying in touch with his Reconstructionist congregation in Bucks County. He receives four to five e-mails per day from congregants and continues to guide the book club, which meets every four to six weeks at a local Panera Bread bakery-cafe in Montgomeryville.
“You’d really think he could see us,” said Joyce Burstein, the book club’s founder. “When members are speaking to him on the phone, they smile at him.”
The book chosen for discussion is sent to Cutler. The date of the meeting is dependent on how quickly the book reaches the rabbi – if it reaches him at all. To accommodate his schedule, meetings are held late in the afternoon Iraq time.
On June 22, participants gathered to discuss “Endless Light” by David Aaron, a Kabbalah-themed book about “love, spiritual growth and personal power.” They arrived with questions, insights and research on the subject, most of which were directed to Cutler once he joined the meeting via phone from 6,000 miles away.