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The Voice of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Updated: 8 hours 5 min ago

Rabbi David Ingber on welcoming the stranger

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 11:59

Rabbi David Ingber’s Friday night sermon from Romemu last week is about doorways, and welcoming the stranger, and how we are all “immigrants” in this life, and what Jewish tradition asks of us as we relate to others. Here’s a taste:

“It’s an essential core piece of our human story. Boundaries, permeability, relationships. All of this is what it means to be human, and it’s part of the Jewish self-understanding, part of what we tell ourselves as Jews in our narrative.

Doors and doorways are fundamentally about liminality. About the in-between; about the spaces, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, where we are in-between. We as a people have been known from time immemorial as those who cross over. We are the children of Abraham, the ivri. We know what it is to be boundary-crossers…

Every child who is born into this world is born an immigrant. Each and every human being comes into an unknown world whose culture will have to be learned. We begin life as immigrants, as boundary-crossers, as those who leave and who enter, who come and go through life’s doorways.”

The sermon is available both on Soundcloud and on YouTube:

On Soundcloud: People of the Door.

On YouTube:

(If you can’t see the embedded video, here’s a link directly to it at youtube.)

Deep thanks to Rabbi David Ingber for this deep Torah, both timeless and timely.

Shabbat shalom to all.

Faces of Renewal: Rabbi Shefa Gold

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 09:05

An Interview With Rabbi Shefa Gold of C-DEEP (the Center for Devotional, Energy, & Ecstatic Practice)

The author of The Magic of Hebrew Chant, Rabbi Shefa Gold is also a recording artist and the director of the Center for Devotional, Energy and Ecstatic Practice in New Mexico. She is interviewed here by Rabbi Rami Shapiro, a member of ALEPH’s Advisory Council:

I’ve been told by many spiritual teachers, especially within the Hindu tradition, that the most powerful spiritual practice for our time is chanting. Would you agree with that?

I’m not going to speak for everyone, but for me, chanting—the musical and rhythmic repetition of a sacred phrase from a holy text—has been the doorway into the depths of my own heart and into the heart of my inheritance, Judaism. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with the sounds of Hebrew prayer, not just for what they meant but for where they could take me.  I found that if I focused in on one phrase, repeating it with a compelling melody, then that phrase could transport me to expansive heights and fathomless depths.

The phrase you inherit from Judaism, but the melodies are your own.

Besides becoming a spiritual seeker, I knew myself as an artist, and I found my voice through poetry and song. Though I’m argumentative by nature, I learned that my arguments only led me toward grief and separation. In contrast, my poems and songs connected me to others, opened my heart, and opened doors of exploration and adventure.

Is it the words or the melody that matters most to you?

Rather than juxtapose words and melody, I prefer to speak of sound and silence. When I first began chanting, I was in love with sound. I experimented with melody, rhythm, harmony, tone, and pitch. But after a while I began to appreciate the silence as well. It was as if the chant opened a door, and through the silence I could walk through the door and receive the true blessing of my efforts. I fell in love with the silence.

What is the true blessing?

The true blessing is the capacity to listen ever more deeply. To listen to the sound and the silence. And in this listening I am opened to the truth of essential unity that embraces all diversity.

How does that happen for you?

When I find words that speak to me, I seek through melody to step into the state of consciousness from which these words emerged. When I embody the truth of this sacred phrase, my world is transformed…

The core of my inheritance can be summed up in three challenges: to love God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my might; to love the other as myself; and to love the stranger. I want to return to those core challenges and find a practice that will help me meet them. Chanting is the most powerful vehicle I have found as I open to the centrality of love.

Speaking to spiritual seekers from any path and no path, how would you direct them to the experience of the power of chant?

Come to a sacred text with a vulnerable heart, acknowledging your own place of longing. Then, let yourself play with the sound of those words. Imagine that they are incantations whose power will be unlocked through your loving intention, through melody, harmony, rhythm, and breath. And then pay careful attention in the silence to what door has been opened by the chant. Resolve to enter. Let the beauty of chant move you through that door, and take pleasure in every step of the journey.

Abbreviated from a longer interview published in Spirituality & Health magazine; reprinted with permission.

This interview is part of Faces of Renewal, an ongoing series of profiles of people who are renewing Judaism in our day. 

ALEPH Statement on Immigration Ban

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 08:08

On Friday President Trump issued an Executive Order banning immigrants from Muslim majority nations.
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, responds in the strongest language possible:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” (US Declaration of Independence) “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)

We, all of us are descendants of immigrants. Every one of us in these United States came here from elsewhere. It is only the small minority of indigenous peoples who can claim otherwise. Jews have learned from the experience of our relatives how dangerous a ban of people who are different than “us” or from someplace else can be. We know the consequences of calling someone the “other.” We know.

It is because of this experience, because of the foundational documents of our country, of the words in the Hebrew Bible that give us clear guidance: to protect ourselves we must protect others, to care for ourselves we must care for others, we must love our neighbor as we would love ourselves.

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, as a faith-based, heart-centered, Jewish organization stands with our neighbors, stands with those who are different, stands with those who are from elsewhere to defend their rights, to defend our rights, to fulfill the holy and moral imperative of to love the stranger as we would love our very own. As such we call on President Trump to rethink and rescind his executive order. As Nelson Mandela said, “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”. Those of us in the faith-based community must help all to realize the fullness of their humanity; those in the political community must remove impediments to that sacred mission.

Faces of Renewal: Rabbi David Zaslow

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 09:58

An interview with Rabbi David Zaslow

How long have you been part of Jewish Renewal?

Since 1988 when Rabbi Ari Hirschfield z”l and Reb Zalman zt”l accepted me in their private smicha program. I was ordained by them in 1995 under the further direction of Rabbi Marcia Prager and Rabbi Yitzhak Husbands-Hankin.

What original contributions have you made to Jewish Renewal?

In poetry we speak about poets who make a breakthrough, and those who interiorize, or help advance the breakthrough. I haven’t made any original contributions to Renewal, but I’m honored to have done the work of interiorization. I’ve taken the infrastructure of Reb Zalman’s theology and developed it in terms of Jewish/Christian relations, as well as an understanding of Hebraic thinking through etymological word studies.

What do you mean by etymology?

Every word in every language has a root that is a metaphor. When we study etymology we’re looking at the archaeology of language. We can learn a lot about how our ancestors were thinking by studying the way they coined and understood words. For instance the Hebrew word “olam” means “world” as when we describe G-d as melech haOlam, “Ruler of the world.” But we use that same word when we say l’olam va-ed meaning “forever and ever.” So it seems that time and space were intimately linked to our ancestors. Time represented by “forever,” and space represented by “world” or “universe.” Our ancestors might have had an understanding of what Einstein called the time space continuum thousands of years ago.

Can you unpack the concept of Hebraic thinking?

The notion that there is no distinction between the animate and the inanimate realms can be seen in Psalm 148 where the Psalmist is addresses elements in nature in the way that all indigenous people do – not as if they were alive, but experiencing them as actually alive. Also, today we make a distinction between the living and the dead. Our ancestors made no such clear distinction. The ancestors, though not here physically, are spiritually alive and accessible to us. These are a few examples of Hebraic thinking

You’re author of Jesus: First-Century Rabbi. Tell us more about your work with Christians?

We use the term JuBu, HinJu, or SuJu with a sense that we can hyphenate ourselves with the Buddhists, Sufis, or Hindus. Yet, with Christians we would never do that. We recognize that groups like Jews for Jesus are nothing more than missionary groups. Yet beneath the surface of the distinctions between Christianity and Judaism there is an inherent unity. Our stories are uniquely different and yet parallel. When we remove our fear of missionary encroachment we find great synchronicity with the theology of our Christian friends. Reb Zalman’s dialogues with Thomas Merton are extraordinary. Reb Zalman was not afraid to speak using Christological language, and Merton responded in kind with language about Judaism that had never been said before by a Christian theologian. Reb Zalman is to say “it’s a difference of approach.” If we approach Christians and Muslims with respect, looking for commonality, that’s what we’ll find. That’s the kavannah (intention) behind my interfaith work.


This interview is part of Faces of Renewal, an ongoing series of profiles of people who are renewing Judaism in our day. 

Prayer For The Musmachot

Sun, 01/15/2017 - 13:22

These are the names of the daughters of Israel
Who came into the womb of narrow unknowing
Each with her household, to be rebirthed anew,

Called by name at the moment of becoming
No less than the stars that shine in their time
By which to count a promised people of light.

Birthing took time, but they’re vigorous in living
And giving life-giving life from essence of soul,
The single point of light that is light before light.

It did not merely appear in your wild and waste:
You saw, daring to turn toward flame of heart,
Standing open to touch and tend the holy,

Hearing your name as never before called from the
Name as never before spoken, becoming in all ways
Within you What is Becoming always within you,

Now ready to shine as never before, for you as the very
Top of the mountain that glowed with the radiance of
Birth herself in truth and love and pain and hope.

These are the names of the daughters of Israel
Come to lead from narrow unknowing to rebirth anew
With eyes wide open – daring to turn aside and see

The flame of heart, to help all of us stand open to
Touch and tend the holy, to hear and become –
Next links in the unbroken chain of always becoming

Now given to their care, placed on their shoulders,
Hearing their names as never before, leaning back into
History’s hands: from where we stand, go forward.

Dedicated with love and blessing to the
ALEPH Class of 2017

Rabbi Rachel Hersh
Rabbi Diane Lakein
Hazzan Jessi Roemer
Rabbi Susan Shamash
Rabbi Jennifer Singer

Rabbi David Evan Markus & Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Co-Chairs, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal


Winter Feast for the Soul

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 12:53

ALPEH’s very own Rabbi Diane Elliot is one of eight featured teachers in this year’s Winter Feast for the Soul, a 40-day World Wide Spiritual Practice Period, beginning January 15

If you would like to join the course there’s no cost to participate, and you’ll be provided with all the materials you need on-line, including a series of 40-minute recorded meditations to guide you for each day of the practice period. 

So if you find yourself in need of some support for your ongoing meditation practice and want to be guided by wonderful teachers and accompanied by fellow meditators from all over the world, consider making this commitment to yourself and your inner life. You’ll find everything you need to participate at:

A haftarah for Martin Luther King weekend

Sun, 01/08/2017 - 07:00

We’ve linked before to this article by Hazzan Jack Kessler, director of ALEPH’s Cantorial Program: English Leyning: Bringing New Meaning to the Torah Service (Kerem, 2014). It’s on our minds again as Martin Luther King weekend approaches.

Hazzan Jack writes:

Twenty years ago I first heard Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l, leyn/publicly read Torah in a flowing combination of Hebrew and English. His leyning in the traditional trop — the Torah melody — moved seamlessly from Hebrew into English translation and back into Hebrew without breaking the melody. Moreover, he used the English — which he was translating on the spot from the open scroll — to interpretively and dramatically teach the text. It was stunning. A tour-de-force! The text practically jumped off the page. I had never heard Torah so passionately alive, so powerful. I’d been leyning Torah my whole adult life, and I know the Hebrew reasonably well, but others around me, for whom the Hebrew would typically be a blur without meaning, were riveted too. They heard the ancient Hebrew, its inflections and rhythms, but interspersed with English in a way that brought them inside the experience. The public reading of Torah had come alive! The words leapt from the scroll into their hearts. We could hear the song of Torah become the carrier wave for the emotional power of the text. People who were hearing Torah read from the scroll, and understood it for the first time, wept.

As the article continues, he describes how he began experimenting with setting contemporary prophetic texts in haftarah trope.

As Martin Luther King weekend approaches, here is Hazzan Jack’s setting of quotes from Martin Luther King’s speeches set to haftarah trope:  mlk-haftara_trop [pdf]


Jewish Renewal and deep ecumenism featured on Greylock Glass

Wed, 01/04/2017 - 07:39

ALEPH, Jewish Renewal, and Reb Zalman z”l’s teachings of deep ecumenism are featured in episode #54 of Will Call, a podcast that’s part of Greylock Glass.

In this episode of the podcast, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat tells the story of Reb Zalman davening zhikr with the Sufis of Hebron, talks about deep ecumenism, and reminisces about an early morning zhikr with emerging Jewish and Muslim religious leaders. And Rabbi David Evan Markus speaks about ALEPH’s recent resolution that if President-Elect Trump should obligate Muslims to register as such with the government we urge all Jews (and all Americans) to register as Muslims,  talks about how “never again” can’t mean just for Jews, and shares about having clergy of other faiths among his congregants at his shul by the sea.

In other segments of the podcast, journalist Kate Abbott explores the art of Nick Cave, talks with Professor Moustafa Bayoumi about his work, and engages with four young poets who shared their work as part of a show called Othering. All of the segments of the podcast are connected by the theme of connecting across difference and standing together against prejudice.

Listen online: Will Call #54: Standing Up Against Othering. (The segment on Jewish Renewal, deep ecumenism, and ALEPH’s resolution urging thwarting of the proposed Muslim religious registry starts around 47 minutes in, and lasts for about half an hour, but we recommend listening to the whole thing.)

Social Action Education as Spiritual Practice – Lessons from Standing Rock, by Rabbi Rain Zohav

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 09:04

Every time we take action, we are also educating. If we are lobbying, we are educating our legislators. If we are protesting, we are educating the public and the “powers that be”. And we are educating ourselves in how to be effective and live our values.

In this moment, the Water Protectors at Standing Rock are a strong example of the intertwining of education, action, and spiritual practice. I was privileged to be able to answer the call of Chief Looking Horse for clergy to come to Standing Rock to pray and be in solidarity with the water protectors on Sunday, Dec. 4. This is perhaps the first lesson for allies to any cause: Listen and wait to be invited if you are supporting groups whose oppression you do not share. In the Jewish tradition, our central prayer, the Sh’ma, is all about listening. Listening to the Divine who is One: transcendent, immanent and reflected in the face of every human being.

Before leaving, I read the Seven Lakota Values of the Oceti Sakown camp: Prayer. Respect. Compassion. Honesty. Generosity. Humility. Wisdom. See full explanations of these here.

While at the camp, I tried to keep the principle of being “in a constant state of Prayer and Ceremony” in mind at all times. This is one way to actualize social action as spiritual practice: by bringing a prayerful spirit to your action, creating and participating in ceremony as you go. I experienced this at Oceti Sakowin Camp almost continuously. The sacred fire was kept burning, which reminded me of the ner tamid – the eternal light – that was kept burning in our Temple and is lit above the ark that holds the Torah scrolls in our synagogues.

Living up to communal values is another way to practice social action as a spiritual practice, and the water protectors are embodying their values constantly. Respect, especially for elders, was like nothing I have ever experienced. From the moment I got out of my car, white hair quite visible, people ran to help. They helped us carry the food and water we had brought, they helped me navigate the flowing mud that had melted the ice on the dirt road, they helped me on the snow that was full of sinkholes where we walked, and they helped us back out when it was time to leave. By my second day at the camp, I had learned that I could simply put out my hand and someone would take it on the mud or ice.

This kind of respect, that embodies generosity and compassion, was also evident throughout the camp. There were eight communal kitchens operating; full of food donated by people near and far and kept open for warm(er) communal sleeping places at night. Folks wandered through the camps offering food: apples, protein bars, Latin American sweets all the way from Cleveland. No one took if they didn’t need and those of us who were only there for a short time were asked to give more than we took.

I believe that all of our spiritual traditions, including the secular traditions that motivate so many in social justice movements, emphasize sharing of resources. At Standing Rock, this value was lived.

Humility was also thankfully evident in the interfaith service I took part in while there. All of the allies spoke briefly, giving the Native Americans the vast majority of “air time”. It became apparent that part of our work there was once again to listen, to witness, and to hold the sacred space. This is spiritual social action in practice.

The wisdom of the Native American elders was also evident when they asked us not to march to the bridge, but rather to continue praying and to encircle the camp with our bodies in prayer. And the clergy attempted to do this, although the camp was huge. For several hours we held the space. And then we heard a great shout go up from the area of the sacred fire and went to see what had happened. And we heard the good news that the Army Corp of Engineers had denied the easement.

And we let ourselves rejoice. Another important part of spiritual social action education: celebrating victories, even if only of a momentary win, not the entire agenda. I can’t ever remember in my long history of social action, being at a protest and hearing right then of a win. This is a moment that will stay with me forever in deepest gratitude. The closest feeling might be hearing of a candidate that I supported winning and being at the celebration.  Even though we knew that the oil company would not simply give up and go away, we allowed ourselves a moment of joy, tears and prayer.

Rabbi Rain Zohav serves, with Rabbi Lori Shaller, as co-director of Educating for Spirituality.  This post is cross-posted from Tikkun.

Faces of Renewal: rabbinical student Laurie Franklin

Thu, 12/22/2016 - 12:51

Laurie Franklin of Har Shalom: Standing Against Hate

Laurie Franklin is a senior rabbinical student in the ALEPH Ordination Program and will receive smicha (ordination) in January. She serves as spiritual leader of Har Shalom, a community in Missoula, Montana with 54 member families.

Franklin organized Har Shalom’s Standing Against Hate conference, organized after pro-Nazi propaganda and white supremacist speech began circulating around Missoula and Western Montana. She is also responsible for the campaign Missoula Menorah: A Light in Every Window, which came into being after white supremacist and American Nazi Party literature was distributed in a variety of Missoula neighborhoods.

“Since the week of Nov 7, Missoula and County residents have been the unwilling recipients of pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic leaflets,” Franklin explains. “Every week has brought new reports of these hate-filled fliers. Our message today is that Missoula is a place of openness and acceptance. We do not welcome hate literature, graffiti or any other demonstration of discrimination on the basis of religion or any other identity.”

Franklin asked everyone in Missoula to keep a lighted menorah in their window during Chanukah, as a visible public stand against the rhetoric of anti-Semitism and white supremacy. For those who don’t have a menorah, Franklin pointed to the free one printed in the Missoulian newspaper (which can also be downloaded from the Missoulian’s website.) This follows in the footsteps of a similar project undertaken in Billings, Montana in 1993.

More than 200 people packed the synagogue for the Standing Against Hate conference.

Aleinu, it is upon us,” Franklin says. “Our community must take on responsibility to counter the upwelling of anti-Semitic activity, both to protect our families and to demonstrate publicly that anti-Semitic activities are unwelcome in our region.” She continues:

Hanukkah means “dedication”. When we, the Jewish people, rededicated our Holy Temple after defeating Antiochus IV and his invading forces, we lit the Temple lamp with a single, remaining pot of holy oil. The oil burned miraculously for eight days, shining intensely with the light of religious freedom.

This year, I rededicate myself to freedom. I will proudly light my Hanukkah lamp and display it at my front door. Once again, I declare to the world, “I am a Jew, and I love my religious and cultural heritage, my ancestors, my family and my Jewish community”. Once again, I dedicate myself to living a Jewish life: celebrating the Sabbath and festivals, loving my neighbor as myself, caring for the earth, supporting the needy, and striving for justice and freedom for all.

When I look at the glowing candles, I remember that in the darkest time of the year, hope illumines the world.

This post is part of Faces of Renewal, an ongoing series of profiles of people who are renewing Judaism in our day. 

Thank You For Supporting ALEPH Through The Years

Thu, 12/22/2016 - 12:04

Dear Hevre,

It is no coincidence that Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights, takes place almost simultaneously with the Winter Solstice, the celebration of the transition from the darkness of Winter into longer days of more light. After the Winter Solstice, small bits of daylight begin increasing, a little more each day, bringing with it more light and energy into our lives, a little bit at a time. This is not disimilar to the slowly increasing light of the Chanukah menorah, as we add a candle, and therefore more light, each night. Shoshanna R. Schechter-Shaffin . . As we approach the end of the secular year, we’re awed and humbled by the exciting things happening here at ALEPH. We are so very grateful to all of you who have supported ALEPH through the years. As you approach your end-of-year giving, we hope you’ll keep ALEPH in mind and help us build on what this year has contained. Yes! I want to climb the ladder

IN THE LAST YEAR (2016/ 5776), WE HAVE:

  • Sent our board co-chairs, board members, and Executive Director from coast to coast, from New York to Vancouver and a dozen places in between, on our international ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour, during which we heard from hundreds of people about what Jewish Renewal has meant for them and about their dreams for ALEPH’s and Jewish Renewal’s future;
  • Held a smashingly successful ALEPH Kallah, during which some 500 participants joined us in Fort Collins, Colorado, for a week-long “Hilulah!” — a celebration of the joys of Jewishing — for participants who came from across the United States and Canada, Europe, Brazil, Israel, and Australia;
  • Welcomed an extraordinary class of new talmidim (students) into the ALEPH Ordination Program;
  • Continued to grow the ALEPH Network, a network of communities and congregations, nonprofit organizations, and individual artists, teachers, and scholars who are renewing Judaism with their innovative, heart-centered work;
  • Been recognized by the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah as three of ALEPH’s programs — Clergy Camp, the Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute, and Embodying Spirit, Enspiriting Body —were selected as semi-finalists for the inaugural Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom;
  • Received a matching grant from NewCAJE which will enable us to pay a translator to begin translating Reb Zalman’s work into Spanish as we bring Jewish Renewal to Spanish speaking communities and the Global South;
  • Welcomed a record international enrollment of 64 rabbis, cantors, rabbinic pastors, ALEPH Ordination students and lay leaders into the Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute, touching the entire denominational spectrum of Jewish life;
  • Shared a variety of liturgical resources, poems, prayers, and more on Kol ALEPH;
  • Continued to offer our heart-opening and soul-expanding programs, among them (in addition to the programs we’ve already mentioned above) C-DEEPEducating for Spirituality, and Sage-ing Mentorship;
  • And expanded our partnerships with other organizations doing the holy work of renewing Judaism.
Yes! I want to Help Continue Reb Zalman’s Legacy


  • Release Renewing Renewal, our report from the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour, sharing wisdom gleaned from hundreds of in-person conversations, focus groups, zoom videoconferencing meetings and more, and articulating visions for the future;
  • Engage in a process of strategic planning, to ensure that ALEPH’s future is bright, vibrant, and meaningful;
  • Expand Tikshoret, our program of affordable, easy-access online courses featuring a variety of incredible leaders and teachers, soon to re-launch with an exciting new digital learning platform and a fantastic roster of teachers;
  • Launch the ALEPH Network Communities Council, connecting ALEPH Network members around the globe and empowering them to help shape the ALEPH they most want and need;
  • Hold a successful and meaningful Ruach ha’Aretz retreat at Stony Point retreat center in upstate New York, featuring great classes, uplifting davenen, and meaningful community connection;
  • Launch Faces of Renewal, a new web series sharing glimpses of the exciting work being done to renew Judaism in our day;
  • And continue to offer our existing successful programs even as we midwife new programs into being.

Donate to the Past. Make a donation to honor Reb Zalman’s memory. When you look back in time, what has ALEPH brought to your life?Donate to The Present. What do ALEPH and Jewish Renewal mean for you now, in your life today?
Donate to The Future. Support the next generation, and join us in celebrating the knowledge that ALEPH and Jewish Renewal will continue into the future.

If you have already made a 5777 gift  to ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, thank you for your ongoing support. Help us go from strength to strength.

I want to donate to the Past,
Present & Future of Renewal Judaism


Wishing you every blessing,

Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin


Executive Director
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat


ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal

Truly (Hatzi Kaddish)

Thu, 12/22/2016 - 09:32

   a beacon
will be the great name
The slow in-breath      will
   for you
  in strangers’ eyes
 in the thick of struggle
in white-knuckled promises
hear the blessing      silence
 the bended knee
   numbered heartbeats

what we bless      is
praise      beauty
up from the well
crown all       in air
still      higher, higher
(What is           in a name?
Words are small
by comparison
Comforts thin
Will they be enough?

Say, truly

Michael Getty has completed DLTI, the Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute.

Update on the Listening Tour and its Report

Sun, 12/18/2016 - 23:09

Dear Friends of ALEPH and Jewish Renewal:

We’re writing with an update on the Listening Tour and its Report about the future of ALEPH and Jewish Renewal.

In 2015 and 2016, we dedicated our first 15 months as ALEPH co-chairs (nearly half of our term) to the holy work of receptive listening.  We wanted to hear as widely as possible about hopes, dreams and kvetches for ALEPH and Jewish Renewal.  We traveled the continent (and, by video, the globe!).  We sat with people of all kinds – clergy, teachers, congregants, students, administrators, innovators, imagineers, artists and more.  We amassed hundreds of pages of notes.  We listened and we listened some more.

When we began, we planned to issue a Report before Kallah 2016.  Unsurprisingly, people wanted to keep sharing their hearts and minds.  We extended a few months.  We hoped to issue a Report before Rosh Hashanah 2016.

As the saying goes, “We plan and God laughs.”  Distilling hundreds of pages and 15 months of listening took longer than we expected.  Today, however, we’re pleased to announce that we submitted a draft Report to our review team, and we hope to have their blessing to finalize and release it shortly.  As soon as we do, you will have this Report about the Listening Tour.

In the meantime, we presented initial findings and recommendations to the ALEPH Board, Va’ad of the ALEPH Ordination Program and ALEPH Project Directors, together representing key constituencies of teachers, students, innovators and communities.  We received their feedback and integrated it.  We plan to offer snapshots during a plenary session of the OHALAH Conference in January 2017.  If you’re coming to OHALAH, we look forward to seeing you in Colorado soon.

Additionally, partly in response to the Listening Tour, the ALEPH Board retained a strategic planning consultant who’s especially adept at helping faith-based communities vision wise and prosperous multi-generational futures.  With his help, ALEPH is evolving a consultative process in which representatives of the ALEPH Board, teachers, students, project leaders and communities will collaborate to vision the next turning of ALEPH – with the resources, programs, structure and flexibility necessary to bring that vision to life.

We are grateful to generous donors for making this opportunity possible, our community hosts throughout the Listening Tour, and the hundreds of people who took the time to share their hearts with us.  We eagerly look forward to continuing this journey together.


As we approach Chanukkah, the Festival of Lights, we recall that among tradition’s many sources that Reb Zalman z”l often quoted was one that speaks poignantly to this moment: “Not by might, and not by power, but by My spirit, says God” (Zechariah 4:6).  It is to the ongoing flow of holiness among and through all of us together that we dedicate this holy work and the next turning of ALEPH and Jewish Renewal that you will help make possible.  From our hearts to yours, thank you.


David Markus & Rachel Barenblat


ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal

Watch Last Nights Judaism Unbound – Live Talk Back!

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 10:39

Watch last nights Judaism Unbound – Live Talk Back!
A fun conversation about “Do It Yourself” Judaism.

Faces of Renewal: Caryn Aviv

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 07:00

An Interview With Caryn Aviv of Judaism Your Way


Why did you decide to pursue rabbinic ordination through ALEPH?

For many years, I taught sociology, Jewish Studies and Israel Studies in the university.  I started to wonder how else I could serve others in a broader way.  I wanted to have conversations about spirituality, meaning, Judaism, and activism, beyond the confines of a small community of college students and fellow scholars.  Becoming a rabbi seemed like a natural progression towards that yearning, and has been a deeply meaningful experience.  

How does Jewish Renewal influence you as a rabbi?

I love the hybridity and openness of Renewal.  I love how this spiritual approach draws on so many different traditions from within Judaism, and evolves in conversation with other spiritual traditions.  I love how Renewal serves as a lab to birth and diffuse new forms of Jewish expression.   

How does Renewal shape the way you make Judaism egalitarian?

My commitments to feminism & social justice inform everything I do and how I see the world.  These commitments are deeply valued and appreciated within the world of Renewal. The vision of Jewish Renewal & the inclusive vision of Judaism Your Way are reciprocal, complementary and synergistic.  That’s what enables me to bring what I learn from Renewal into my pastoral work & teaching with JYW participants.

How has Renewal shaped JYW’s programs?

As a Jewish incubator, I draw on so many of my Renewal colleagues’ work in our programs, in our High Holy Day Machzor, and in my thinking and practice.  My learning in the ALEPH smicha program has given me tools, ideas, and the courage to experiment in ways I might not have otherwise.    I so appreciate how Jewish Renewal teachers bring the wisdom and insights of Hasidut into the 21st century.  I see part of my work with JYW as serving as a translator for audiences who might not otherwise learn about these mystical traditions and teachings.  

What do you think is the ‘most awesomest’ part of Renewal?

Drawing on the legacy and memory of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (z’l) I think the world of Jewish Renewal is moving into an emerging paradigm shift with leaders who are thinking about the future. Judaism is a deep wellspring of inspiration in a rapidly changing, global world.   We need this wisdom desperately, given all the challenges that our planet faces now and in the coming decades.  I’m grateful to be part of this community.  


This interview is part of Faces of Renewal, an ongoing series of profiles of people who are renewing Judaism in our day. 


Judaism Unbound Talkback

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 12:28

Episode 22 of the Judaism Unbound podcast featured Rabbis Rachel Barenblat and David Evan Markus, co-chairs of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. In this live talkback at 8:30pm EST on December 12, join the co-chairs and the hosts of Judaism Unbound for a conversation about “Do It Yourself” Judaism. What does it mean to take Judaism into our own hands and to seek in Judaism answers to the questions of this hour? How are people reshaping and renewing Judaism today? How can we make Judaism our own, and what tools and practices are at our disposal? Come talk with us about all of this and more.

The talkback will take place via Google Hangouts, and will be streamed to YouTube. The YouTube video will stay online even after the talkback is over, so those who aren’t able to join us at that hour can watch it later. Shortly before 8:30pm ET on Monday, the Renewal Unbound page on the ALEPH website will be updated with a link to the Google Hangout where people can join us, and we’ll embed the YouTube video on that page after the event is over. If you’re able to be online on Monday night, join us on Google Hangouts and talk with us about DIY Judaism and the Jewish future you want to co-create!

(For those who are Facebook users, here’s a Facebook Event for the Talkback — let us know if you can join us, and start thinking about the questions you want to ask…)

# GIVINGTUESDAY – Make today the most impactful Tuesday ever!

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 12:36

Today on Giving Tuesday, ALEPH and NewCAJE have partnered to promote the local educational project of Sabiduría de Renovación Judía – Jewish Renewal Wisdom in Spanish.

Click to help make this dream a reality!

As the world becomes “smaller” and our access to networking technology increases, it has become more and more obvious that “the Jewish tent” is truly much more colorful and diverse than American Jews may realize.

In order to reach more Jews and “Jew-curious” communities in the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, and South America, materials and social media need to be offered in Spanish.

Due to the unique flavor of the wisdom of the teachings of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalom z”l and Jewish Renewal, including our commitments to “earth based Judaism,” deep ecology as a spiritual practice, eco-Kashrut, and radical inclusivity, ALEPH has been approached by many Spanish-speaking communities across the globe to offer more materials in Spanish and make them widely available and accessible on the web. ALEPH is excited to partner with Spanish speaking communities around the globe, and The Sabiduría de Renovación Judía project will help us do so.

Today, on #GivingTuesday, we hope you join ALEPH and NewCAJE in helping make innovative Jewish education a reality. Your contribution will have a lasting impact.

Yes! I want to help ALEPH translate Jewish resources into Spanish.

Standing With Non-Jews Against Oppression

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 13:29


As initially proposed by ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal 


President-Elect Trump repeatedly has advocated and expressed his intention that Muslims resident in the United States will be required to register as such with the United States government; and

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution bans state action in respect of any establishment of religion, including tests and other qualifications on the basis of religion; and

Article II of the United States Constitution obliges the President of the United States to take care that the Constitution and laws of the United States are faithfully executed; and

Incitement and tolerance of invidious discrimination on the basis of any religion, ethnicity, race, gender, nationality or sexual orientation cultivates a civic climate that countenances all such discrimination, including anti-Semitism; and

Incitement and tolerance of religious discrimination have no place in any civil society; and

The Jewish people have living memory of anti-Jewish legislation and other official discrimination in Nazi Germany, including civic disqualification and registration with the government, preceding the Holocaust; and

Core Jewish spiritual values teach that one must not stand idly by the blood of one’s neighbor (Leviticus 19:16), and that one must love one’s neighbor as oneself (Leviticus 19:18); and

Principles of deep ecumenism  view all religious traditions as potential paths to the sacred; and

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi  z”l (of blessed memory) professed faith with the Sufis of Hebron to exemplify the spiritual principle that Jews can and must stand in faithful co-religionist solidarity with Muslims;


If Muslims are required to register as such with the United States government, then all Jews — and all other persons in familial or communal relationship with Jews — are urged to register as Muslims immediately; and

All Jewish clergy associations based in the United States — including OHALAH (Renewal), Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform), Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative), Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (Reconstructionist) and Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox) — as well as the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, its constituent organizations, all Jewish seminaries and other institutions of learning, and all other Jewish organizations, are urged to adopt, implement and publicize this resolution by all available means; and

All other clergy organizations and other faith-based organizations operating or having influence in the United States are urged to adopt, implement and publicize corresponding versions of this resolution most suitable to the tenets and contexts of their respective faith traditions; and

If Muslims are required to register as such with the United States government, then a goal is established that every United States resident promptly will register as a Muslim; and

Each ratifying organization will transmit a copy of this resolution to the official government office of Donald J. Trump as of its date of ratification; and

This resolution will be publicized by all available means.


ALEPH voices featured in Sh’ma

Tue, 11/15/2016 - 10:25

The latest issue of Sh’ma focuses on תֹכֵחָה / Tochecha: Rebuke, and features Jewish Renewal voices from ALEPH Network communities on the east and west coasts of the United States.  

Jhos Singer of ALEPH Network community Chochmat Ha-Lev examines what tochecha teaches us about living Jewishly. Tochecha asks us to listen so that we may “fully absorb what we hear and then get busy clearing away the muck.” The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, teaches: “If you see another person doing something ugly, meditate on the presence of that same ugliness in yourself.”

Rabbi David Ingber  of ALEPH Network community Romemu writes about rebuking Mordechai Gafni, the charismatic teacher who has been accused of sexual misconduct—among other offenses—repeatedly.  But how do we rebuke someone who is impervious to tochecha? Ingber “leaned on the Talmud’s teaching that we should rebuke someone, even 100 times…”

Read the whole issue here: Sh’ma November 2016.

Prayer After the Election

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 19:21

Today mourning and celebration commingle.
Jubilation and heartache are juxtaposed
In neighborhoods where lawns proclaimed
Support for different candidates, on Facebook walls
And Twitter streams where clashing viewpoints meet.

Grant us awareness of each others’ hopes and fears
Even across the great divides of red state and blue state,
Urban and rural. Open us to each others’ needs.
Purify our hearts so that those who rejoice do not gloat
And those who grieve do not despair.

Strengthen our ability to be kind to one another
And to ourselves. Awaken in us the yearning
To build a more perfect union. Let us roll up our sleeves
Whether today we feel exultation or sorrow, and together
Shape a nation of welcome and compassion.

Let ours be a land where no one need fear abuse
Or retribution, where every diversity is celebrated,
Where those who are most vulnerable are protected.
May bigotry and violence vanish like smoke.
May compassion prevail from sea to shining sea.

By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat