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Poster Commentary
"I am blessed to be a voyager on an ancient pathway."Rabbi Rachel Cowan
Poster design:Arnold Schwartzman


Interview and Commentary by Sandee Brawarsky

When Rabbi Rachel Cowan describes life as a journey, she thinks of joining a path that has been well traversed and cultivated by generations of teachers and spiritual leaders who preceded her. That winding path, which has guided Jews for thousands of years, is layered with wisdom, insight, and tradition. As a contemporary Jewish voyager, she seeks to discover what is ancient and timeless and at the same time, she creates a new path on top of the old by sharing new teachings and interpretations.

“It’s a flow that I can name and see myself as part of,” Cowan says. “It gives tremendous meaning to my life.” She’s drawn to both themes of rootedness and growth, and is inspired by Psalm I, which describes “a tree planted by the rivers of water,” nourished by water to bring forth fruit. The water in Psalms I is interpreted as the Torah.

There are many entryways onto the sacred pathway that is Judaism. Individuals at every stage in life can find guidance in addressing everyday issues, as well as life’s mysteries. Rabbi Cowan sees meaning and richness in being part of something that predates us and will also continue beyond our own lifetimes. 

Rabbi Cowan, whose rabbinate has involved helping others to find their way to discovering the depths of Judaism, speaks in this quote of being blessed. For her, blessing is about gratitude and feeling God’s presence, thereby appreciating every moment and not taking anything for granted. 


Sandee Brawarsky, an award-winning writer and editor, is the culture editor of The Jewish Week. She also curates the “Well-Versed” blog, moderates a summer literary series, and teaches memoir writing to a group of seniors. Brawarsky’s essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Lancet, Hadassah Magazine, and The Jerusalem Post. She is the author of several books, including a recent book about Central Park. Brawarsky is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Author’s Guild. 

Conversation Guide

What do you THINK?

1. How do you understand the analogy of an “ancient pathway”? Would your image include shared entryways, detours, or bridges?

2. “Voyager” often connotes futuristic travel, yet Cowan suggests that we are voyagers on “ancient pathways.” How do you understand this mixed metaphor? Do you feel that you are a voyager on an “ancient pathway” or on an uncharted one?

3. What are the responsibilities that accompany a life with ancient foundations? What are the challenges of traversing an “ancient pathway”?


What do you SEE?

1. Describe the components of this poster. What mood do they create?

2. Why do you think the artist portrayed this voyage taking place in a very calm setting?

3. The boat is made from a folded Yiddish newspaper from 1929 which relates the closing of a yeshiva in the artist’s grandfather’s hometown in Belarus. What does this heirloom add to the image and its interpretation of the quote?


Copyright© 2015 Harold Grinspoon Foundation

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Proudly Jewish©2015, Arnold Schwartzman, Quote: Rabbi Rachel Cowan, Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA