Rabbi Michael Lerner still courts controversy as he celebrates his magazine's silver anniversary
Lerner never abandoned his belief in the validity and power of protest. "I would like to see young Jews confront the Jewish institutions," he said. "I want to see sit-ins and demonstrations to challenge those who are willing to give support to the right-wing governments of Israel."
Yet he has also grown skeptical of many leftist groups. "As spiritual progressives, we are critical of progressives," Lerner explains. Although he agrees that a major redistribution of political and economic power is necessary, he argues that something is missing on the left, with its focus on secular ideas and neglect of real spiritual needs.
Lerner says the left's shortcoming has allowed the right to tap into popular discontent and win support by championing church and family.
While working toward his PhD in psychology, Lerner was part of a team that interviewed thousands of working Americans. "What we discovered was there was a spiritual crisis in peoples lives. There was a deep hunger for a framework of meaning and purpose to life that would transcend the individualism, selfishness, and materialism that people are working all day long in the workplaces," he said. "People don't like the message of the work world that the bottom line is to maximize money and power, and to do that you must look out for No. 1 and not care about others."
His response was to found Tikkun, whose message can attract even agnostics. Alana Price does not describe herself as religious, but she has recently been promoted to be the co-managing editor of the magazine. "I knew Tikkun built a bridge between the religious left and the secular left, so I was excited about that," Price said. "What drew me was the deeply humane quality of Tikkun."