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The false barrier between the Jewish and secular worlds

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Unfolding Potential: A Jewish Journey of Self-Development by Jonah Simcha Chaim Muskat-Brown (Mosaica Press)

The Jewish calendar is ideally suited to help us fulfil our potential, as clinical social worker and author Jonah Simcha Chaim Muskat-Brown shows in his book, Unfolding Potential: A Jewish Journey of Self-Development.

Jonah Simcha Chaim Muskat-Brown

Muskat-Brown started training in social work in 2012 and graduated in 2014, but he likes to think he’s been doing it forever. “It’s the type of field you go into because you like to help people and empower and inspire others to become their fullest selves,” he said.

He continues that work with his book. In it, Muskat-Brown goes through the Jewish calendar and explains the lessons on potential that each holiday reveals.

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The first chapter is on, what else, Rosh Hashanah, and it’s about the potential to be different. By pulling from various sources, both Jewish and secular, his training as a social worker and the novel connections he makes between these seemingly disparate worlds, Muskat-Brown reveals that Rosh Hashanah is our annual reminder to choose who we want to be in the future.

“So much of our psychological makeup and our Jewish makeup complement each other, and I wanted to integrate both of them and kind of bridge that gap between the Jewish world, which so many people perceive as very boxed in and very black-and-white and rigid, and the psychological world, which people see as very modern and very open and very scientific and secular,” said Muskat-Brown. “We need to see that they’re not two worlds. They’re one world.”

To bridge the gap between the secular and Jewish worlds, he says we need to “live our fullest selves and use all our godly talents and gifts to bring goodness and more light and more kindness to the world.”

By compartmentalizing our secular and Jewish identities, he says we’re creating a false barrier, when we could be investing our Judaism into the world we live in, using it to make sense of the secular world, rather than keeping them separate.

Muskat-Brown is still writing and publishing pieces. He’s working on one right now about Jewish identity, how our identities evolve and don’t just remain in the past. As for Unfolding Potential, there was a lot he learned while writing it.

“We can never give up on ourselves and never give up on our ideas and our dreams and our hopes and our aspirations … until we’ve reached that so-called end, our goal. And never underestimate what we can do,” he said. “Don’t be surprised at how great you can become.”