For 26 years Jonathan Omer-Man lived in Israel, where he worked as a farmer (kibbutznik) on a communal farm, until he contracted polio; after trying his hand for a couple of years as an electrician and as a high-school teacher, he moved to Jerusalem and embarked on a career in publishing. He served as Deputy Chief Editor of the Israel Program for Scientific Translations (from Russian to English, for the N.S.F.), revising editor at the Encyclopaedia Judaica, Chief Editor of Israel Universities Press (working with major Israeli scholars, including Prof. Gershom Scholem), and editor of the Shefa Quarterly (the latter in close collaboration with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz). In his mid-30s he felt drawn to the study of Jewish mysticism, in what became a life-long passion, and found mentors in the worlds of academe and the hasidic community.
In 1981 he moved to Los Angeles, where he founded Metivta: a center for contemplative Judaism, an academy dedicated to the renewal of traditional Jewish meditation and to the deepening of personal religious quest. Metivta was once considered to be a model for a small dedicated, spiritually oriented community. He also participated in founding the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and served on its faculty for a number of years.
He has lectured at universities, colleges, synagogues, seminaries and monasteries throughout the United States, and has raised numerous students, rabbinic and lay. His publications include essays, some short fiction and verse, though he is more subject of others’ books than author of his own. In 1990 he visited the Dalai Lama in India, a journey that was described in Rodger Kamenetz“s The Jew in the Lotus.
Now retired and living in Berkeley with his wife Nan, he is continuing his explorations into Jewish mysticism, in addition to studying sober Sufism, classical Arabic and Ibn Arabi. He is also actively involved in blogging, on this website, attempting to find a balance between normative liturgy and symbolic mysticism — all in posts of 250 words or less!
His four children and four grandchildren live in Israel.
He was ordained as a rabbi privately by Rabbi Zalman Schachter,