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The Voice of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Updated: 11 hours 52 min ago

Rabbi Prof. Dr. Andreas Nachama appointed to lead the General Rabbinical Conference of Germany (ARK)

Fri, 04/05/2019 - 10:08

In the photo: Rabbi Jonah Sievers, Berlin, ordained by Leo Baeck Institute; Rabbi Prof. Dr. Andreas Nachama, President, General Rabbinical Conference of Germany; Rabbi Dr. Antje Yael Deusel, Bamberrg, ordained by Abraham Geiger College.

The General Rabbinical Conference (ARK) is a body of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. It unites 29 rabbis who work in Jewish communities in Germany. However, the ARC does not represent a particular current of liberal Judaism, but rather members from various streams of Judaism.

A turning point:
Honoring the Past President

Landesrabbiner em. Dr. Henry G. Brandt served since the founding of the General Rabbinical Conference of Germany (ARK) in 2005 as its president. He helped to create a framework in which today can affect a new generation of rabbis in Germany. R’Brandt, Ninety-two-year-old, was no longer available for the ARK board elections.

Welcoming the New President
He is now followed by Rabbi Prof. Dr. med. Andreas Nachama as president. The outgoing director of the Foundation Topography of Terror and Rabbi of the synagogue congregation Sukkat Shalom was unanimously elected to his new post; Rabbi Dr. Yael Deusel (Bamberg) and Rabbi Jonah Sievers were confirmed as board members. Rabbi Brandt will remain with ARK as its honorary chairman for life.

Andreas Nachama writes:
“The General Rabbinical Conference (ARK), which I was able to co-found in 2005, is the most important link between the rabbis serving in the Jewish communities in Germany. To serve the ARK as president in the succession of Rabbi Dr. Henry Brandt, who still embodies the great erudition of rabbis born in pre-war Germany, is a privilege. My goal is to open the now increasingly difficult time for new Jewish life and thinking, but also to connect new challenges with Jewish thinking. I want to make the ARK a forum for Jewish thought and I want to serve as a bridge to pass on our heritage to the new generation of rabbis trained at the Geiger College in recent years.”

Rabbi Prof. Dr. Andreas Nachama is a rabbi of the synagogue Sukkat Shalom of the Jewish Community in Berlin, Jewish President of the German Coordinating Council of the Christian-Jewish Societies, Jewish Chairman of the Discussion Group Christians and Jews at the Central Committee of Catholics and Rabbi in the Presidium of the HOUSE OF ONE Berlin. Until the end of November 2019 he is also the director of the Topography of Terror Foundation in Berlin. From 2005 to 2015 he was Founding Dean and Professor of Holocaust Studies and Communication on the Holocaust at Touro College Berlin / New York.

Andreas Nachama, born in Berlin in 1951, studied Judaic Studies and History at the Free University of Berlin and graduated in 1976 with a Master of Arts degree. His PHD Thesis was on “Substitute Citizens and State Education in Early Modern Prussia.” He was ordained as Rabbi by R’ Zalman Schachter Shalomi z’l and ALEPH in 2000.

Rabbiner Prof. Dr. Andreas Nachama
Jüdischer Präsident des Deutschen Koordinierungsrates der Gesellschaften für Christlich-Jüdische Zusammenarbeit
0172 327 96 66

Gottesdienste in der Synagoge Sukkat Schalom
Herbartstraße 26
14057 Berlin Charlottenburg
freitagabends um 19.30 Uhr
Schabbat Morgengottesdienst um 10.00 Uhr

Feast of Masks

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 18:10

Feast of Masks
For Sandi Cohen, who asks difficult questions

Seth F. Oppenheimer

The feast of masks
We ask
What is the mask you wear?
What is the mask I wear,
What is the mask we show,
Only each to herself.
The scholar said,
We never show our face
To another
Only some mask
We hide behind illusions
Another scholar quips
We do not even show
Our faces to ourselves
Inner masks and outer.

I contemplate
What is my mask
What is this face I show
The world
My friends

I ask
Are we all really so dishonest
To each other
To our friends
To ourselves?

Consider the gem
Shining in the light
We see
One facet
One face
Is the gem deceiving us?
It is true
We do not see the whole gem
Only this facet
Or that
But surely it is truly the gem we see
Merely not all of it.

Within our skins
A parliament of persons
We are never just one thing
One person
As the gem, we bring forth our different facets
Our different faces
We are always both/and
How impoverished to be merely either/or

The mystics
With their tree of aspects
Are just as anthropomorphizing
As the rest of us poor idol builders.
We are all Aaron
Pouring gold into the flames of our need
The calf just comes out
Whatever graven image satisfies

In naming our limitations
Of understanding
Understanding The Holy
“We can only see aspects,
Never The Whole
Of The Holy”
We rehearse a description of the sephirot of our souls
Recapitulating the structure of ourselves
As the Image of The Most High
We put forth our constellations of self
In partsufim of presence
A dance of our inner aspects
As the face we present
Present to the world
To ourselves
To Our G-D

Some will say
As our scholar above
We are liars
Because we only present parts
Aspects of our selves
But we show who we really are
Who can encompass a whole
Even of the least of things

Some will insist that we must
We must peel back the layers
The layers of our presentation of self
Remove mask
After mask
After mask
As if
The masks were not also
Truly ourself
But we find,
As when we peel an onion
In the end
After layer
Is removed
All that is left
No Thing
A bit of that which is
Which is
Without end
Ein Sof
The spark of The Infinite
The heart of the Image
From which
We form
Our image
And from
Our image
To our idols.
So, perhaps,
We do not sin too greatly
Standing before the creative fire
Wielding the hammers of our longing and desire

And when we face another
With the face we are wearing
What choices do we have?
Shall we not seek
To put forward the face
The face of our best self?
Do we not wish to smile kindness
To gesture compassion
It is not a mask
It is not a lie
It is who we are
It is the voice
From the chorus of self
That we want to lead
That we want to set
Set the melody,
Call the rhythm
Choose the harmony.

When we see another’s face
And there are blemishes
Recognize the pain
That puts that face forward
Put on a gentle mask
Just because a gem’s flaw
Can be seen through one facet
Does not diminish its
Unique and infinite worth.

So we ask
What is your mask?
What is my mask?
And I answer
We each show our face
But we each have many faces
Each a part of the whole
We strive to put on a good face
Not to deceive
But because we seek to be good.

We cannot encompass in understanding
A grain of sand
A breath of air
A glimmer of light
How then
A human soul
Each of us
How then
Shall we see
Let alone
The Breath of Creation.

ALEPH Ordination Program Ordains Six Rabbis, Three Hazzanim and one Rabbinic Pastor

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 16:52
Photo credit: Rabbi Greg Wolfe. From right to left: Rabbi Maury Hoberman, Rabbinic Pastor Ruth Delfiner, Hazzan Baruch Morris, Rabbi Jonathan Zasloff, Rabbi Seth F. Oppenheimer, Hazzan Shayndel Adler, Rabbi Laurie Franklin, Rabbi Amy Grossblatt Pessah, Rabbi David R.E. Aladjem,
and Hazzan Diana Brewer

On Sunday, January 13 – at the OMNI Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, Colorado, opening the 21st annual conference of OHALAH: The Association of Rabbis and Cantors for Jewish Renewal and the Rabbinic Pastor Association – the ALEPH Ordination Program (AOP) welcomed six new rabbis, three hazzanim and one rabbinic pastor into the lineage of ordained Jewish Renewal leaders.

Family, friends, rabbis, teachers, Jewish leaders, and other honored guests representing the spectrum of Jewish affiliations swelled attendance at the OHALAH conference for the inspiring ordination ceremony.

The ordination each year blends the ancient tradition of awarding smicha through the “laying on of hands,” with the ritual creativity of the students who design the surrounding ceremony. As the music and chant begins, the AOP VAAD – our core faculty and Directors of Studies – processes into the room, followed by other members of our faculty who are in attendance.  All stand to honor the beloved teachers who guide our growing seminary-without-walls, now the largest rigorous liberal Jewish seminary, embracing students from throughout the US, Canada, South America, South Africa, and Europe.

The procession was led by Rabbi Marcia Prager, AOP’s Dean and Director, and Associate Dean Rabbi Steven Silvern, followed by Dean of Faculty Rabbi Shulamit Thiede and Dean of Students Rabbi Leila Gal Berner; Hazzan Jack Kessler, Director of the Cantorial Program; and Rabbinic Pastor Shulamit Fagan, Director of the Rabbinic Pastor Program, with Assistant Director Rabbinic Pastor Sandra Wortzel. The procession of teachers and VAAD members continued with Rabbis Elliot Ginsburg, Natan Margalit, Victor Gross, and Nadya Gross, Director of the AOP Hashpa’ah Program and Rosh Hashpa’ah, and Shawn Israel Zevit, Associate Director of the Hashpa’ah Program, followed by faculty and the ten students preparing to be ordained.

Holding the Chuppah under which all processed were representatives of various groups in our community who support our students through their studies: Irwin Keller, representing fellow students, Rabbi Ori Har DiGennaro representing our mashpi’im (spiritual directors) and Rabbis Edwin Harris and Orna Triguboff representing our faculty.

The processional music was an evocative setting of Uri Devorah by our newly-to-be-ordained Hazzan Shayndel Adler, and the recessional music, a rousing composition from Shirat HaYam by ALEPH Hazzan Jessica Roemer, sung together by ALEPH Hazzanim Shulamit Wise-Fairman and Jessica Roemer and accompanied on percussion by Joey Weisenberg and friends.

AOP students and faculty extend gratitude to the many rabbis and honored teachers who also participated in the smicha ceremony.

The recorded live-stream of the ceremony can still be viewed HERE.

The full program booklet can also be downloaded on that page.

2019 Graduates of the Rabbinic, Rabbinic Pastor, and Cantorial Programs:

Rabbi David R.E. Aladjem
Rabbi Laurie Franklin
Rabbi Maury Hoberman
Rabbi Seth F. Oppenheimer
Rabbi Amy Grossblatt Pessah
Rabbi Jonathan Zasloff
Rabbinic Pastor Ruth Delfiner
Hazzan Shayndel Adler
Hazzan Diana Brewer
Hazzan Baruch Morris

A Message from Rabbi Diane Elliot

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 16:14

January 24, 2019

Dear ALEPH friends,

As some of you may have heard, The Embodying Spirit, En-spiriting Body program—for seven years an amazing laboratory for deep exploration of body- and movement-based approaches to Jewish prayer, Torah, mysticism, and life cycles—has come to an end.

As instigator and director of this program, I’ve been privileged to work with an inspiring and dedicated core faculty, including Latifa Berry Kropf, Rabbi Ori Har, Reverend Simona Aronow, Eshet Hazon Julie Leavitt, and Rabbi Leah Novick. Together we’ve developed a curriculum that has invited our students, clergy and lay leaders alike, to dig deep into the roots of Jewish tradition and to savor the nectar of Jewish spirituality through a myriad of movement and other creative forms—improvisational dance, Body-Mind Centering®, Authentic Movement, Five Rhythms, journaling, collage, poetry, and visual art among them.

Together, with the participation of nearly 40 students in three different cohorts, we’ve grown this work and developed new tools for individual spiritual growth and exploration. At the same time, we’ve supported our participants to integrate embodied approaches to Jewish practice and learning into their own lives and to share them with communities across the country and in Europe.

My dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Shefa Gold, recently published a piece, “Why Go On Retreat, Anyway.” In it she writes about her decision to take dedicated retreat time during her rabbinical education: “I was coming face-to-face with the requirements of three essential elements of a balanced, ever-deepening spiritual life. The first was a daily, moment-to-moment practice; the second was a connection to a spiritual community, and the third was a deep dive into retreat.”

I, too, have been a fierce proponent of the rich benefits of spiritual retreat in a Jewish context. The Embodying Spirit program comprised four week-long retreats, spread over 18 months. This format, woven together with periodic on-line learning sessions and regular khevruta check-ins, allowed participants to dive deep, to knit the precious learnings of the dedicated retreat weeks into their daily lives, and to receive the support of a growing international community of “somatic” Jewish practitioners, seeking to engage in a deeply felt, full-bodied, Four Worlds living Judaism.

I’m so proud of and grateful for what we’ve accomplished together! And, over the course of seven years, I’ve become aware that, as richly transformative as the four-retreat format has been, Jewish embodiment work needs to be made more accessible, more available to folks who can’t make the time and/or financial commitment to four weeks away from home in a rural California retreat center.

So after the graduation of Cohort 3 in April 2018, I made the decision to conclude the Embodying Spirit program, in its original form, so that we might look back and receive the rich fruits of our work thus far and begin to investigate other ways that embodiment might be integrated into the worlds of Jewish Renewal learning and practice. To that end, I’ve cleared my schedule to embark on two months of personal retreat time this winter during February and March, to rest, to write, and to dream into the future.

In May, I’ll be joining Rabbi Shefa Gold as guest teacher for her SOULIFT retreat in Wisconsin and will be bringing some of the Embodying Spirit approach into the realm of working with challenging experiences—dealing with tzurus. In July I’ll offer a class during the Ruach Ha’Aretz retreat at Stony Point Center in upstate New York called “Awakening to the Earth’s Call,” an experiential journey to re-open all our senses to the wisdom messages of the natural world. 

I’m also involved in a marvelous project called Taproot, which provides retreat space for Jewish activists, artists, and changemakers of all ages to deepen their connection to Jewish practice and community. My role as a Taproot steward involves bringing embodied and kabbalistic text study and prayer into our retreats. Having just concluded our second annual winter retreat (December 26-31) in northern California, we’re exploring offering programs other time frames and venues as well.

So, although the Embodying Spirit program as such has ended, the work goes on! Keep your eyes peeled for future ALEPH and ALEPH-affiliated opportunities to engage in full-bodied, movement-sourced, Jewish learning. I’m proud to be a leader and fomenter on the ALEPH path of renewing Jewish life!

And should you wish to support my two-month mini-sabbatical retreat this winter, I invite you to visit my on-line fundraising campaign, “Diane Turns Toward the Future,” or to make a tax deductible contribution directly to ALEPH, earmarked for “Rabbi Diane’s Sabbatical.” I thank you in advance for your generosity.

With great appreciation for the creative, inspirited community that is ALEPH and all its allied communities and programs, I wish you a deeply energized and productive winter, tapping the sap-rising life force of this inward-turning season.

Many blessings,
Rabbi Diane Elliot