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The Voice of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Updated: 6 hours 51 min ago

SOULIFT: Healing Into Action | Words from Cherie Brown

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 15:29

By Cherie Brown

Led by Rabbi Shefa Gold and Cherie Brown, SOULIFT: Healing Into Action is designed for activists and seekers who want to integrate nurturing their inner lives with taking principled actions in the world, so that every action we take can be grounded in intelligent compassion, with awareness and with a both deeply human and a soul perspective. SOULIFT: Healing Into Action will take place February 4 – 10, 2019, in Tampa, Florida. Learn more here.

I am a lifetime Jewish activist and a member of a Renewal Congregation in the metro D.C. Area: Am Kolel. For the past 42 years, I have had the honor of being the International Jewish Liberation Reference Person in Re-Evaluation Counseling (Co-Counseling). As part of this work, I have led hundreds of workshops with Jews around the world on healing from the effects of anti-Semitism, internalized anti-Semitism, the intersection of anti-Semitism and racism, and Israel/Palestine issues.

From 1979-1984, I was a consultant to the National Affairs Staff at the American Jewish Committee, writing manuals and developing models on how to lead workshops on Black Jewish issues and Inter-group/Inter-Ethnic Coalition Building.

Inspired by the work with AJC, in the summer of 1984, I launched an organization, the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) to train activists from all over the world in Coalition Building and anti-oppression work. Thirty-four years later, NCBI ( is still going strong. We have built diversity, equity, and inclusion resource teams on dozens of college campuses, in schools across the U.S. and overseas, and we lead trust building/bridge building work between law enforcement and community activists. Through this work, I have come to understand the powerful role of healing work for activists and people interested in ending racism and all forms of oppression.

For the past many years, I have also been an adjunct faculty at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, teaching courses on Diversity Leadership and Conflict Resolution for Rabbis on the Israel/Palestine Conflict.

I made a firm commitment several years ago to begin working intensely with young adults and to build intergenerational partnerships to be able to pass on wisdom from decades of activism. Towards this goal, I have been leading weekend trainings with Dove Kent and Helen Bennet for young adult activists in their 20’s and 30’s on anti-Semitism, internalized anti-Semitism, the intersection of anti-Semitism and racism and how all this impacts activism on Israel and Palestine work. In addition, I’ve led several weekend training programs for the leadership of If Not Now, helping them to build a strong, vibrant organization of young adult activists who are both proud as Jews and working to end the occupation while at the same time, developing internal practices that include treating their leaders well.

I’m very excited about partnering with Rabbi Shefa Gold to lead this SOULIFT. For years, Shefa and I have been eager to put together a program that combines our unique skills. I have been a fond supporter of Shefa’s work for many years. And I believe deeply that the world needs spiritual leaders who also have access to their own inherit ability to heal from past hurts (grief, fear, or shame) and can lead others with compassion, generosity, and wisdom. In this retreat, I will be working alongside Shefa—and teaching healing practices from re-evaluation counseling that include listening pairs and work on internalized oppression to empower all of us to find our unique voices and unique journey into activism.

To learn more about SOULIFT: Healing Into Action, click here.

May Your Breathing Be Easy

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 10:56

Find a quiet, safe and comfortable place to sit or walk, if movement suits you better.

Round 1 | Forgive Yourself
Forgiveness is like an expansive exhalation—out breath. It empties out all of the pain, anger, sadness, shame, self-righteous indignation that we know too well how to hold inside. Holding on to anger is like holding your breath. It is constricting, narrow, tight, painful. Always feeling out of breath. Gasping for air. We want to breathe. We must breathe. Breathing is not always easy. We want to be in control. Think to yourself: May I be loved. May I be safe. May I be strong. May I be healed.

Round 2 | Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt You Deeply
Forgiving someone else doesn’t mean waiting for an apology first from someone else. That apology may never come. That person may have no idea how much you are hurting. We can only breathe for ourselves. We must forgive. Holding a grudge is a false sense of security. Imagine that the person can feel your forgiveness. Think to yourself: May you be loved. May you be safe. May you be strong. May you be healed.

Round 3 | Forgive Someone Who Has Slighted You
Forgiving releases us. We cannot control what others do or say. We can choose whether or not to hold onto that hurt. That choice is in the space between the in breath and the out breath. We must re-learn to breathe. Re-spiration. Think to yourself: May you be loved. May you be safe. May you be strong. May you be healed.

Round 4 | Forgive All Living Things and Beings
Forgiveness is teshuva. It is turning the corner. It is a return to openness and possibility. We know we are alive because we have breath. All living things and beings breathe. Think to yourself: May all living things and beings be loved. May all living things and beings be safe. May all living things and beings be strong. May all living things and beings be healed.

We all share the same air. We want to live fully. We want to experience and do as much as we can. We all need as much air as possible. By forgiving we release ourselves. Only then can we really breathe.

With forgiveness,

Meditation Practice for Kol Nidre by Rabbi Marcia Prager and Hazzan Jack Kessler

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 14:35

Listen to the recording of Hazzan Jack Kessler singing Kol Nidre HERE.

Mediation Practice for Kol Nidre
by Rabbi Marcia Prager
Based on Reb Zalman’s z”l teachings on Kol Nidre

We chant Kol Nidre three times. Each chanting addresses one dimension.
Center yourself. Find a place where the body is in equilibrium.

We hear Kol Nidre three times. The first time we hear Kol Nidre for the body.

Here I ask, “Are there muscles in my body that are committed to a particular way of being that does not serve me, that is an anchor for a destructive pattern of behavior that has begun to feel normal?”

Are there vows or commitments to destructive habits that are lodged in my muscles because of old habits that I have held in my musculature? Can I stretch in new ways? Can I actually teach my muscles new ways of being? We have muscles that we use consciously and unconsciously. Stretch some of them if you can. Try stretching facial muscles. Is their “at rest” position reflecting gratitude or disappointment… or what?

Good, throughout the day return to this practice. Stretch into a new way of holding your body, a better way to use your face and your smile.


Center yourself again. You’ll hear Kol Nidre again, with a message for the heart.

Give your heart muscle a massage. If is the most powerful muscle in your body. It is also the seat of compassion. Here too, you might have stored habits of heart that need change. We each have old emotional memories that have been stored up that derive from real experiences, but they are edited and stored in a way that now perhaps hurts us and holds us back. Old habits of feeling, old stale resentments that have become like vows that you need to let go of in order to release new creativity in your relationships. Massage your heart and allow it to release the vows that hold you back from loving.


OK, Center yourself again. Find a place where the body is in equilibrium to hear Kol Nidre again. 

Examine any vows you made to different habits of mind… different reality maps. You’ve said, “You are really the truth…you are the way of understanding things that are happening that will always guide me.”

But some of those assumptions, some of those ways you mapped your reality may not be working any more. You may have to say, “Hey, I am letting go of this reality map because it is no longer working for me. Because if I hold on to that map it is anchoring me in a perspective that is not true enough picture. I promised that this would always guide me, but I find that it is not working for me and I would like to let go of that. But I want to hold onto the benefit of my experience, so where do I draw the line? What do I let go of? The old reality map is there is ballast. I need to let it go.

PLAY THE KOL NIDRE RECORDING AND LET IT SINK IN.  Sit quietly reflecting on the lessons you have learned. How can you use these lessons to bring your life into ever better alignment with your highest goals?

Inaugural Reb Zalman z”l Distinguished Service Awardee Judith Dack

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 12:09

The inaugural Reb Zalman z”l Distinguished Service Award was presented to Judith Dack at the 2018 ALEPH Kallah. In presenting the award on behalf of the ALEPH Board of Directors, Rabbi Dan Goldblatt referred to Judith as a bitzuistit, “Hebrew for someone who makes things happen, a door opener, a catalyst.” Goldblatt related the tale of Judith’s circuitous spiritual awakening, and her calling to avodah, sacred service.

Describing the early days of Jewish Renewal, Goldblatt recounted “the times when we were up in the mountains with Reb Zalman engaged in spiritual experiences, and Judith was on the ground asking the question, who is going to support this endeavor? None of us were thinking about that. She began supporting ALEPH by giving herself, and created a legacy of donors. She modeled her leadership in a way no one had done before. Not many of us were skilled in this.”

That was twenty-one years ago, when Judith took a bold step forward and began to lead the charge for ensuring the future of Jewish Renewal and ALEPH.

Judith’s commitment to ALEPH began at Elat Chayyim, the Jewish Renewal Retreat Center in Accord, NY. By the end of her first weeklong retreat, Judith knew she had stumbled upon something extraordinary and priceless. She started asking around, “Does anyone do any fundraising around here?” She saw that the facility sure looked as if it was in great need, but no one was very interested.

Judith had never been interested in fundraising before either, only giving out of a sense of obligation. “You know, the neighbor puts an American Heart Association envelope in my mailbox and I had to give so I wouldn’t look bad, or my daughters would come home from school with that Sally Foster gift wrap fundraiser and I had to buy all this stuff just so my kids would look good,” said Judith. “There was no kavanah, no giving from my heart.”

Everything changed that fateful Saturday night at Elat Chayyim. Judith stood up in front of the entire kahal—as she would continue to do for many years to come—and made the following pronouncement. She said, “Thanks to this transformational retreat, I know I have saved a small fortune in psychotherapy bills, and therefore I am making a $2000 gift tonight and I hope others will join me.” And they did. The community resonated with Judith’s story and gave generously, more than ever before.

Judith continued to deepen and expand her involvement with, and connection to, Jewish Renewal and ALEPH. For many summers she was the yoga teacher, mispacha group leader and fun-raiser at Elat Chayyim. She was in the first cohort of the Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute (DLTI), and Kol Zimra where, for the past 10 years, she has continued to assist in Reb Shefa’s retreats. She joined the ALEPH Board of Directors in 2003 where she served for 14 years. “I was blessed by all these experiences and I knew I had received a truly great gift in my life through Jewish Renewal. I knew I had a huge debt that I could never repay but I was going to try. I was overcome with gratitude for my life and I tried to offer whatever service I could to further the programs.”

“Probably my greatest contribution was to transform the way fundraising was approached in this community,” recalled Judith. “I called it Stand-Up-FUN-Raising and I developed a technique which invited every person, no matter what the available funds were, to be inspired to participate and literally stand up at whatever amount had meaning for them.”

When Judith was honored by ALEPH as an Eshet Hazon, a Woman of Vision, she was named Ezrat Olamay Aleph, She who holds up all the worlds of ALEPH. ALEPH has been forever changed—inside and out—by Judith Dack. ALEPH is enormously grateful for her generosity, service and legacy.

In her remarks at the Kallah ceremony, Judith closed with this blessing: “as this movement continues to grow and evolve, may there always be space for every soul to heal and transform, and to be seen and valued for the unique gift each of us brings.”

Baruch Dayan HaEmet:  Rabbi Rachel

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 10:14

Baruch Dayan HaEmet:  Rabbi Rachel Cowan 

With sadness ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal mourns the passing of a luminary of our time: Rabbi Rachel Cowan, who succumbed to cancer just before Shabbat on August 31, 2018. A passionate activist, teacher and leader, her life-work supported visionary initiatives and vibrant new opportunities for engagement with Jewish spirituality and social justice. Her light in the world of justice, peace, and healing will not go out.

We join with her family and friends in mourning her passing, and extend our hearts to our colleagues at IJS, the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, which Rabbi Rachel Cowan supported first though her work with the Nathan Cummings Foundation and then as its second Executive Director.  ALEPH, too, was a beneficiary of her vision when The P’nai Or Religious Fellowship and The Shalom Center merged to create ALEPH in 1993.  Rabbi Cowan helped provide significant funding for the merger through her central role as the Program Director of Jewish Life at the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

ALEPH extends our deepest condolences to her family as we continue to honor her vision in our work. May her memory be for a blessing, zikhronah liv’rakhah.

Services will be held on Tuesday, September 4 at 9:30 am at B’nai Jeshurun, 257 West 88th Street in NYC.

The Institute for Jewish Spirituality which Rabbi Cowan, along with Rabbi Nancy Flam, co-founded, will be offering three virtual minyans: Tuesday, September 4 at 8 pm eastern; Wednesday, September 5 at 9 am eastern; and Thursday, September 6 at noon eastern.

To participate in the IJS virtual minyan for Rabbi Cowan, use this Zoom link:

Join a Tradition of Holy Olive Pickers | Oil Pressers These High Holy Days

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 15:25

Dear ALEPH-niks,

We are called to serve the greater good. I stand before you, as the new ALEPH Board Chair, to ask you to be part of securing the future for Jewish Renewal. Our task is like that of our ancient forebear’s olive pickers: Press olives, refine oil that fueled the Eternal Lamp, signaling God’s eternal presence. Today’s fuel comes in the form of Dollars, the energy of which goes directly into funding today’s Jewish light: our Current Teachers, our Future Leaders, our Artists and Musicians, our Spiritual Directors and Rabbinic Pastors, our Meditation and Dance Instructors—in short, our Holy Experimenters.

Rabbi Marcia Prager, Dean of the ALEPH Ordination Program and student of our beloved Reb Zalman, alav ha shalom, once taught that it is from the fringes that plants absorb the nutrients; roots seek the outermost places from which to reach nourishment. Reaching for the fringes enables the tree to spread its roots most broadly, so that it can stand strong and tall. Jewish Renewal is kind of fringe-ee.

This is appealing: in the past 3 years, enrollment in the ALEPH Ordination Program has surpassed that of other seminaries, making it among, if not the largest Jewish seminary in the world. In the coming years, these sparks of Jewish Renewal will grow into a real force for change in the world!

Being a Donor to ALEPH means having the sacred opportunity to fuel the engine of Jewish Renewal, and to help those sparks spread and grow. The amazing new influx of energetic and creative innovators and teachers into ALEPH is infusing Jewish Renewal with new life, and granting you the chance to help author its next chapters. Your role, in fact, is crucial to the process. ALEPH needs your gifts, to fund the resources our students need to learn, to support our musmachim/ordainees’ impulse to experiment, and to help build vital, practical and administrative support for our many ALEPH Communities throughout North America and the world.

Will you please join me, and the ALEPH Board, in donating now, and in considering ALEPH in your estate planning, so that we, together, can provide the fuel needed to keep the lights of Jewish Renewal alive for many years to come? Please make a donation HERE.

May you and your family and friends be blessed to have a sweet and fruitful new year.

L’Shanah Tova,
Rabbi Aura Ahuvia
Chair of the ALEPH Board

ALEPH Kallah 2018 | Opening Rap

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 15:47

Rabbi Geela-Rayzel Raphael and Binah Barbara Block weave a beautiful melodic tapestry that welcomed Kallah 2018 attendees and also provided a brief introduction to how ALEPH came to be!

Yah, Yah, Yah, Shechinah
Kallah and Kabbalah
Sing, Meditate and pray
Yod Hay Vav Hey

Once upon a time there was a rebbe,
A hussid in a black hat was he,
Escaped Europe with his streimel intact
Landing in the land of the free.

Along the way he met Reb Shlomo
Sang with him a niggun or two
Making rounds on college campuses
Trying to round up young Jews.

He was on such a journey from Chabad
To Falls River in the state of Mass
With a detour through New Bedford
He delved into the task

Of reaching Jews with spirit
Telling stories like Holy Beggars
He landed way up in the frozen north
Among the Winnipeggers.

Zalman started having children
Who called him their dear Abba
Later he created a Tallisarium
One summer at camp Ramah.


But then came along the sixties
With tie dye, drugs and anti-war
And Zalman tapped into the spiritual hunger
So many people wanted more, more, more!

And when Timothy Leary
Spread the word about LSD
Reaching for the stars through peace and love
High with divinity.

Reb Z traveled, taught and sang
Gathering the sparks of hungry souls
Who wanted to feel the fervor
Of a Judaism making them whole.

There were minyanim, and retreats
And joyous concerts galore
Poetry, new music, new translations
With spirituality at the core.

He had a holy vision
Based on the ruins of Qumran
To create a brand new spiritual order
Rising from the ashes that were gone.

Along the way our rebbe studied
Got a masters and PhD
From Lubavitch to Havurat Shalom,
And then to HUC.


He met with the Dali Lama
And Pyr Valayit Kahn
And Swami Satchidinanda,
Holy men stayin’ up til dawn.

Deep ecumenism was brewing
Opening all those doors
All religions were ways to seek more wisdom
Deploying us by the score.

Davvening Hebrew and English
Bridging the old world and the new
He broke the mold so many ways
Now we could be spiritual Jews.

When he came to Philadelphia
Taught at Temple and RRC
The energy was building,
We needed new communities.

But was it New Age Judaism
Or Hasidism for the Aquarian age?
He taught us all about a paradigm shift
And how to be a sage.

There was marijuana haroset
Blowing shofar with Paul Horn
And birkat hachama on the Empire State
Staying up all night until morn.


Now Zalman and Reb Shlomo
Began to gather more and more sparks
Communities began to sprout
and the seas began to part.

Now we had the Joys of Jewishing,
Moshav Shivtay Shalom
Moshav Modiin, Boston’s B’nai Or
Were places to call home.

There was The house of love and prayer,
Aquarian Minyon, Kehillah and more.
P’nai Or Philly, Ruach Ha ‘aretz,
Began to open the doors.

From Portland to Ashland, Seattle, Vancouver
Pnai Or, Bnai Eitz Or
Boston, Philly, Boulder, Berkeley
Fabringin, TAO and more.

In 1985 we gathered,
For the first renewal Kallah
We all streamed in from near and far
Sharing Shabbos and fresh challah.

We had found our tribe of people
Rainbow Jews we became
Some were singers, poets, dancers, artists
And many changed our names….

Women added the voice of Shechinah
And raised up Miriam’s well
Eshet Hazon feminine power
A place for Shechinah to dwell.


Tikkun Magazine was born
Reb Arthur prophesized Shalom
Reb Marcia created the seminary
For students to call home.

The ordination program flourished
Training Rabbis and Rabbinic Pastors,
Thank G-d for Jack he taught the Cantors too
So we avoid melodic disasters!

In ‘90 our leaders convened
For a weekend of community
And the Alliance of Jewish Renewal was born
Creating unity.

Then Zalman heard the call of Boulder
To spread his teachings far and wide
Yesod supported his efforts and dreams
Ohalah was part of his pride.


So ALEPH was a culmination
of many different streams
Are we a movement, a denomination?
We are the zenith of our Jewish dreams.

We made room for women’s voices,
Gays lesbians, and trans* too
Psycho halachah and eco–kashrut
We also welcome Jew-Bus.

C-DEEP, Meditation, DLTI,
Ruach HaAretz and Kol Zimra,
Pilgrimages and retreats that break the mold
ALEPH has the programs to lift your soul.

As the tribes gather from the four corners of the earth
And the higher powers assemble to bring us rebirth
May the angels and Shechinah come to bless our days
We open to receive Yod Hay Vav Hey.

And now we gather ourselves again,
To share our holy light
And greet these beautiful faces
We welcome you tonight.

So taste the many offerings
And sing some great new songs
Study with these learned teachers
For you all now belong to

The ALEPH tribe of Renewal
Where we all do our part
With high and holy spirits
And amazing open hearts!!

And amazing open hearts!

Final chorus

Yah, Yah, Yah, Shechinah
Kallah and Kabbalah
Sing, Meditate and pray
Yod Hay Vav Hey

Organizational Update

Fri, 07/27/2018 - 11:07

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal announces the departure of Steve Weinberg, Deputy Director, as of July 31, 2018. Steve has been a formidable member of the senior team since October 2016. He is leaving ALEPH on excellent terms and the timing of his departure coincides with the completion of one of our most successful Kallot and the ending of the organization’s fiscal year.

“I’ve enjoyed working with so many thoughtful and spiritual seekers, which has enriched my life,” says Steve Weinberg. “It has been a pleasure working together towards a shared purpose dear to my heart.”

“Steve’s departure is truly a selfless act,” says SooJi Min-Maranda, Executive Director. “ALEPH is at a critical juncture and we are focusing on building a strong path for the future during our non-Kallah year.”

ALEPH runs on a two-year cycle that is dependent on income from our biannual Kallah. “I, with support of the Board of Directors, am looking to diversify and strengthen our revenue streams,” adds Min-Maranda.

As part of the organizational restructuring, ALEPH’s physical office at 7000 Lincoln Drive in Philadelphia will be closing as of October 31, 2018.

“With the smaller staff size and increased telecommuting, it just made sense to close the physical office,” says Min-Maranda. “We will be exploring other options such as co-sharing spaces, if needed. The organization will continue to be headquartered in Philadelphia.”

Philadelphia is where ALEPH’s founder, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l, established B’nai Or (“Sons of Light” in Hebrew) as both a local Jewish Renewal congregation and a national organization in 1978. Both the congregation and the organization later changed their names to the more gender-neutral P’nai Or (“Faces of Light”). In 1993, the national P’nai Or organization merged with Arthur Waskow’s Shalom Center to form ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, integrating the two principles of Tikkun haLev (“repair of the heart”) and Tikkun Olam (“repairing the world”). The Shalom Center became its own independent organization in September 2005.

In the coming year, ALEPH will be focusing on building and connecting our renewal communities across the country and abroad; aligning our people, programs and partners; strengthening Board governance; and fundraising.

ALEPH Names New Board Chair

Wed, 07/25/2018 - 12:59

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal is pleased to announce that Rabbi Aura Ahuvia was installed as the new Chair of the Board of Directors effective July 1, 2018. Rabbi Ahuvia serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Shir Tikvah, one of America’s only Reform/Renewal congregations, located in Troy, Michigan (near Detroit).

The daughter of a Holocaust survivor and the great-granddaughter of a shtetl refugee, Ahuvia had always felt the historic and cultural importance of Judaism but didn’t feel especially religiously motivated until after her children were born. Her path to ALEPH and renewal began with a pursuit for deeper Jewish knowledge.

“I intended to merely gain some lay-leadership skills through a program called DLTI (Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute),” recalls Ahuvia. “To my astonishment, the fire in me roared to new life: I had found training not just for my sake, but for the sake of building a Jewish home, from scratch, for others. Shortly thereafter, I entered the ALEPH rabbinic program with the commitment to serve.” Ahuvia attended DLTI from 2004-2006. She received both her rabbinic and spiritual director ordination from ALEPH in 2015.

“I cherish my ALEPH education for several reasons. One is that it demands the integration of our whole selves—body, spirit, inner emotional life and intellect—to the task of growing in our Judaism. I credit this whole-self approach with enabling knowledge to find its way into physical practices, and mindfulness to inform prayer. It infuses everything I do: the way I pray, the way I lead services, the way I teach, and now, the way I participate in the movement’s leadership. Furthermore, my ALEPH teachers taught us how to play within tradition, by helping us understand the deep underlying structures of prayer and their meanings. For me, it was the recipe for creativity within authenticity that I had been seeking.”

“Rabbi Aura Ahuvia is home grown,” says SooJi Min-Maranda, ALEPH’s Executive Director. “We are so blessed to have her leading our Board with love, understanding and care.”

Rabbi Ahuvia steps into the role previously filled by Rabbinic Pastor David Daniel Klipper. “My intention was always for my role as board chair to be temporary,” says Klipper. “I feel very good about the state of the Board and highly confident in Aura’s leadership. Personally, I’m excited to be able to return to teaching, which is my first love.”

For Ahuvia, the Board provides sacred stewardship to ALEPH. “There are so many creative, brilliant and unconventional change agents in ALEPH’s midst. The Board’s role is as the supporting cast. I’m reminded of our ancient forebears who were asked to serve as humble olive pickers. Their holy task was to press oil from the harvest, which fueled the eternal lamp, signaling God’s eternal presence. Much of today’s fuel comes in the form of dollars, the energy of which goes directly into funding today’s Jewish lights, as well as structural and other types of support. Our teachers, students, future leaders and communities need our help.”

Eichah/Lament for the Earth in Honor of Tisha B’Av

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 15:55
  1. Eichah / Lament for the Earth: Tisha B’Av by Rabbi Tamara Cohen

(While serving as the Barbara Bick Memorial Fellow of The Shalom Center)

Eichah: Alas, she sits in danger.
Earth, home to multitudes,
like a beloved, deep in distress.

Blue ocean, source of life —
Endangered and imprisoned.

Bitterly she weeps in the night
Her shorelines wet with tears.
Of all her friends, none to comfort her;
All her allies have betrayed her.

Checkerspot butterflies
flee their homes;
Polar bears
can find no rest.
Because our greed has heated Earth.

Whole communities destroyed
To pursue off-shore oil.
Lives and dreams have been narrowed.

Coastlines mourn for families,
lost homes and livelihoods.
Barrier islands lament, desolate.

Wetlands sigh without their song birds.
Estuaries grieve; the sea is embittered.

Earth’s children – now her enemies;
Despite destruction, we sleep at ease.
The Breath of Life grieves
our abundant transgressions.
Infants of every species,
captive to our conceit.

Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, hadesh yameinu kekedem.

Let us return, help us repent,
You Who Breathe all Life;
Breathe us, Breathe us,
Breathe us into a new path–
Help us, Help us, ,
Help us Turn to a new way of living
Make–new, Make -new,
Our world of life intertwining –
Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

Gone from Appalachia –
her mountaintop glory;
mined by Massey Energy
without compassion.
Children sick from air and water,
stumble weak before King Coal.

All that was precious in the days of our youth,
Earth recalls in woe and sorrow.

Her creatures die with none to help them,
at the hands of Exxon, now BP.
World leaders shrug
and look on helpless.

We have sinned greatly,
and so are ailing.
Our people who respected life,
have come to defile it.
We have stripped Earth naked,
she shrinks back.

Oily waves slap the sand like a soiled hem;
we were heedless of the cost of our appetite.
We have sunk appallingly, there is no comfort.
See, Breath of Life, this misery; how our avarice jeers!

Greed has laid hands on all dear to us.
Your sanctuary plundered by multinationals
full of contempt for Your holy community.

The Earth’s poor cry out as they search for nourishment;
indigenous communities trade resources for food,
to keep themselves alive.

Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, hadesh yameinu kekedem.
Let us return, help us repent,
You Who Breathe all Life;
Breathe us, Breathe us,
Breathe us into a new path–
Help us, Help us, ,
Help us Turn to a new way of living
Make–new, Make -new,
Our world of life intertwining –
Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

Look, O Breath of Life, and behold,
what gluttons we have become.
Will we heed this warning, we who live as if unscathed –
Will we truly look and know this agony as ours own?

We are afflicted by angry consequence,
The elements push back against their abuse.

Forest fires reach down and spread like fury,
Sprawl and refuse trap our spirits.
Great storms hurl lives backwards, upside down
survivors are left forlorn, in constant misery.

For these things do we weep
Our eyes flow with tears.
How far from us is any comfort,
the possibility of change that might revive our Earth?
The children are forlorn for their future is bleak
unless we act with speed and wisdom.

Alas, humanity in our reckless living

have brought shame over all.
Can we remember the holiness of your creation,
Your footstool, green and fertile?

We have razed woodlands to the ground,
profaned the Kingdom of Earth and all its creatures.
In arrogance we slashed the mighty Redwoods,
will we cease hiding our power from ourselves and befriend our Earth?

How can we wrestle with God and bring justice to others
If we don’t quench the flaming fires,
and turn back from endless consumption?

Egrets and brown pelicans languish in salt marshes
From the depths, corals cry out.
“Where are the fish? Where are the clean waters?”
Languishing battle-wounded in the wetlands,
life runs out in ocean’s bosom.

Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, hadesh yameinu kekedem.
Let us return, help us repent,
You Who Breathe all Life;
Breathe us, Breathe us,
Breathe us into a new path–
Help us, Help us, ,
Help us Turn to a new way of living
Make–new, Make -new,
Our world of life intertwining –
Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

Lead us, lead us, on a new path to Eden,
Teach us self-restraint in the very midst of abundance.
To “Ayeka/Where are you?”
We will answer Hineni.
We are here to honor boundaries, not to devour all.

Open, open — Our eyes to see in each creature,
Tree, Ocean , Mountain —
the Presence of the One.


  1. Between the Fires, By Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center 

We are the generation that stands
between the fires:
Behind us the flame and smoke
that rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima
And from the burning of the Amazon forest;
Before us the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The flame and smoke that could consume all earth.

It is our task to make from fire not an all-consuming blaze
But the light in which we see each other fully.
All of us different, All of us bearing
One Spark.

[Light a candle, or a torch, or clump of sage]

We light these fires to see more clearly
That the earth and all who live as part of it
Are not for burning.
We light these fires to see more clearly
The rainbow in our many-colored faces.
Blessed is the One within the many.
Blessed are the many who make One.

Here! I will send you
Elijah the Prophet
Before the coming
of the great and terrible day
of YAHH, the Breath of Life.
And he shall turn the heart
Of parents to children
And the heart of children to their parents.
Lest I come and
Smite the earth
With utter destruction.
(From Malachi 3)

Here! we ourselves are coming
Before the great and terrible day
of smiting Earth —
For we shall turn the hearts
Of parents to children
And the hearts of children to their parents
So that this day of smiting
Does not fall upon us.

Shabbat Shalom from Kallah 2018!

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 10:19
At the opening ceremony on Monday night, I welcomed more than 500 beautiful souls from all over the country and abroad, to my first ALEPH Kallah. Again, I shared how I had been heavy of heart as the Kallah was approaching. I didn’t want the outside community to think that Kallah was a retreat from the real world. Instead, I challenged us to make Kallah an opportunity to co-create a sacred community that is not like the one that we have today but the kind of community that we see ourselves becoming. To be a kind of community that is not about what we want but a community that focuses on what our souls need.

And it’s messy. This is all still kind of new to me. Everyone has been so welcoming, gracious and kind. While I’ve found it easy to open my heart to many, there are some who I am not able to let in.

I also realized that as the days passed, I had become more than a little off-kilter. I happened to mention this to none other than Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael, who then proceeded to cleanse my aura. Because what else would you do to balance your energy?

Thankfully, Shabbat is approaching. And it’s no ordinary Shabbat. We’ve opened up our services to the entire Pioneer Valley local community. Three congregations will be joining us. Together, we will receive our additional souls and collectively turn inward.

I can almost hear my soul my soul sigh. For when we say Shhhh, when we quiet our minds and really listen, our souls say Ahhhh.

With gratitude, SooJi