Reconstructionist Rabbi Tries To Create Jewish Community in Western Iraq

From the Jerusalem Post:

Plenty of rabbis lead their congregation’s book club, but Jon Cutler may be the only one who does so from a war zone.

Rabbi Jon Cutler, left of...

Rabbi Jon Cutler, left of Torah, with Jewish personnel in the chapel on his Iraqi base.
Photo: Courtesy

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.


About Luke Ford

Raised a Seventh-Day Adventist at Avondale College in Australia, Luke Ford moved to California in 1977. He graduated from Placer High School in 1984, reported the news at KAHI/KHYL radio for three years, attended Sierra College and UCLA, was largely bedridden by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for six years, and converted to Judaism in 1993. From 1997-2007, Luke made his living from blogging. Living by Beverly Hills (, he now teaches the Alexander Technique (moving the way the body likes to move). Lessons cost $100 each and last about 45 minutes. In 2011, Luke completed a three-year teaching course at the Alexander Training Institute of Los Angeles. His personal Alexander Technique website is Luke is the author of five books, including: » The Producers: Profiles in Frustration » Yesterday’s News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism
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