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The Voice of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Updated: 9 hours 26 min ago

ALEPH Executive Director SooJi Min-Maranda Joins Hatikvah Slate in Helping Repel Right Wing Takeover of Zionist National Institutions

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 15:49

The Hatikvah Slate was established by Ameinu, Partners for Progressive Israel, Habonim Dror North America and Hashomer Hatzair, creating a strong progressive Zionist voice. Joined by ALEPH, Americans for Peace Now, Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, National Council of Jewish Women, New Israel Fund and T’ruah, this coalition earned 10 delegates in the U.S. Zionist elections and attended the 38th World Zionist Congress that took place virtually last week. 

Largely due to emergence of the ultra-orthodox Eretz Hakodesh list in the U.S. and the increase in right wing Members of Knesset, the right wing-orthodox bloc had a narrow advantage over the center-left bloc in the delegate count at the Congress. Defying historic custom of evenly distributing the leadership portfolios and governance positions in the national institutions among all ideological groups and religious streams to create a wall-to-wall coalition, they instead chose to sign an agreement only among their allies, creating an imbalance with the almost equal minority groups. The political left, center and liberal religious movements rejected this anti-democratic move and planned a strategy to block this power grab.

There is a group of international Zionist organizations, including Hadassah, WIZO, Na’amat, Bnai Brith and World Maccabi, that generally remain neutral in these negotiations and accept the results when finalized. The Hatikvah Slate, together with our colleagues in the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, reached out to our friends and colleagues in these organizations and they answered our call for fairness, sending a warning to the right wing-orthodox bloc. 

This successful mobilization of support resulted in an unprecedented postponement of the initial election and renewed negotiations resulting in a much improved coalition agreement. Specific accomplishments include:

–Governance balance within the Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael-Jewish National Fund (KK”L-JNF) and the World Zionist Organization (WZO). 

–In addition, Yesh Atid will chair the KK”L-JNF Finance Committee and the chair of the Environmental Committee will rotate between Labor and the liberal religious streams.

–Kachol Lavan will appoint the Chair of the Keren Hayesod, the Zionist fundraising arm for countries outside of North America.

–The selection of a WZO President from Yesh Atid and designated for a female candidate.

–Meretz designee Dror Morag will establish a new Department for Social Engagement (Tikkun Olam) while Labor designee, Silvio Joskovitz, will head the Zionist Enterprises Department which will include a new unit for Humanistic Judaism.

In addition, at the Congress we succeeded in passing two key resolutions in the face of fierce opposition from the ZOA, StandWithUs and Eretz Hakodesh: a Hatikvah sponsored resolution that will empower Zionist youth movements and Jewish Student Unions around the world to lead the effort to combat anti-Zionism on campus and a resolution that assures mutual respect for the diversity of voices within the Zionist Movement that calls for the suspension or dismissal from the WZO and local Zionist organization for personal attacks against the leaders of other Zionist organizations.

With the end of the Congress, we turn our attention to the work of the national institutions going forward. If conditions allow, an extraordinary World Zionist Congress will take place next year and deal with ideological and programmatic issues. We also congratulate our Slate members who were chosen for the following positions.

Zionist General Council 


David Dormant (Partners for Progressive Israel)

Leah Schwartz (Habonim Dror North America)


Karen Shapiro (Partners for Progressive Israel)

Yonatan Shargian (Hashomer Hatzair)

Shaina Wasserman (J Street)

WZO Expanded Executive

Nomi Colton-Max (Ameinu)

Jewish Agency Executive

Kenneth Bob (Ameinu)

Hatikvah Delegation to the 38th Zionist Congress

Delegates (alphabetical order)

Stuart Applebaum

Kenneth Bob

Jared Jackson

Sheila Katz

Nancy Kauffman

SooJi Min-Maranda

Leah Schwartz

Karen Shapiro

Yonatan Shargian

David Weiss

Deputy Delegates (alphabetical order)

Alisa Belinkoff Katz

Nomi Colton-Max

Bekah Diamond-Bier

David Dormant

Yael Dormant

Minna Elias

Gili Getz

Janee Graver

Amichai Lau-Lavie

Arieh Lebowitz

Libby Lenkinski

Aviva Meyers

Sam Norich

Zach Shartiag

Naomi Tamura

Shaina Wasserman

Steve Weinberg

Molly Wernick

Joel Winograd

Michael Young

Healing Harvest

Mon, 10/05/2020 - 15:10

from the High Holy Days


co-created by the Friday Healing Circle, 10-2-20

Blessings of Forgiveness and Renewal

I forgive myself as I forgive others—

my heart open enough to hold both.

I take Refuge in the Ever Present Presence—

and wine is also good.

Toxic air and the beauty of the birds—

my heart open enough to hold both.

Holy connection

doesn’t require physical proximity,

so I hope, always hope,

for a sweeter year

no matter what life brings…

the unknown, 

moments of self-forgiveness and love,

I embrace it all, 

fruits still ripening,


Seeing beauty, 

painted rocks, blue skies, yellow leaves,

love is renewed,

I return to self-compassion.

Then my compassion for others

flows freely into

loving magical connection

with sacred friends—

even on-line.

Holy connection doesn’t require

physical proximity.


inner Malkhut, 

the majesty and dignity within,

finding and feeling my center.

The joy of birds at the lake

awakens awareness of

my lifelong quest

to listen—

to the authentic voice of my body,

integrating the past and allowing

a path forward,

appreciating the challenges and gifts

from my parents and grandparents,

how important to connect with family,

friends, community,

to be held in Jewish community and practice,

at-ONE-ing, ehaD! wHOLY Heart yuD ehaD, 

forgiving and receiving ahavaaaaaaaa



will be 

what Yah will be.


ALEPH Executive Director SooJi Min-Maranda to Attend World Zionist Conference as Delegate from Progressive Hatikvah Slate

Wed, 09/30/2020 - 16:21

ALEPH’s executive director, SooJi Min-Maranda, will be virtually attending the 38th World Zionist Congress (WZC) as an official delegate from the Hatikvah slate. The conference will be held online October 18-20, 2020.

SooJi Min-Maranda will join her US delegates, as well as those elected from Israel and around the world for an international “parliament of the Jewish people.” Delegates make decisions regarding key institutions which allocate nearly $1 Billion annually to support Israel and World Jewry (including the World Zionist Organization, Keren Kayemet LeYisrael –Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency for Israel).

In addition, an in-person Extraordinary Congress to be held in Jerusalem will be scheduled between September-December in 2021 or at the latest during 2022. The delegates to the second Congress must be those who participated at the October 2020 virtual Congress.

The Hatikvah slate’s platform is inspired by Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the State “will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace as taught by the Prophets; and will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed, or sex; and will guarantee full freedom of conscience worship, education and culture.” Hatikvah is committed to democracy and the rule of law, believing that all citizens of the State of Israel must be treated equally, and their civil and human rights protected. Hatikvah opposes policies of discrimination, fear, and tribalism. You can view a full copy of the Hatikvah platform by clicking here:

For SooJi Min-Maranda,a Korean-American immigrant who converted to Judaism as an adult, the decision to stand up and be counted on the Hatikvah slate is rooted in Torah and Jewish tradition. You can read more about why SooJi decided to join the Hatikvah slate here:

Voting for US representatives to the 38th WZC ended on March 11, 2020. The seven-week US election for the World Zionist Congress garnered 123,575 votes, from American Jews in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and US territories. This represents a 115% increase – more than double – from the turnout of the last WZC election in the US in 2015 and is the highest number of votes since an open election began for the entire American Jewish community 30 years ago.

There were 15 slates, comprised of 1,800 delegate candidates, which competed for the 152 American elected seats at the Congress during the election administered by the American Zionist Movement (AZM).

To see the full list of delegates and alternates, click here:

Rosh HaShana- the Beginning of Change

Wed, 09/16/2020 - 15:33

By Rabbi Natan Margalit

Rosh HaShana, of course, means “New Year” but the Hebrew might also be loosely translated “the Beginning of Change.”* We also refer to Rosh HaShana in our liturgy as “the birthday of the world” – ha’yom harat olam. This doesn’t mean that the birthday happened five thousand or four billion years ago; it means that this is a moment ripe for change, for a new birth—every year. This year it especially feels to me like the primary meaning of Rosh HaShana is a time to focus on change, on birthing a new world.

As we all have experienced, this past year has been like no other. The world as we knew it has literally come crashing down, ground to a halt, splintered and shattered. Yet, within all this coming apart, perhaps we are being offered the opportunity to reimagine our world. There is no “business as usual” anymore.  

Is it really possible to birth a new world? It seems to me that Jewish tradition has answered emphatically yes! We are charged with being God’s partners in co-creating the world. But how do we do such an audacious thing? The answers that have come down from the earliest biblical texts up to the most recent mystical writings have one thing in common: in order to come into our human potential to be creators, we must first accept and deeply imbue our consciousness with the reality that we are not gods unto ourselves, but are, like all our fellow creatures, embedded in a miraculous world of which we are but a small part. We are here first to serve that greater whole and its Infinite Source—and only then can we be empowered to co-create our world.

This year with its cascading crises of disease, social upheaval and natural disaster has literally hit us from all angles. But the thing that I find strikingly similar in all these crises is that they all seem to be showing us, imploring us, to notice our embeddedness in the dynamic interconnected patterns of a living world. This is especially hard for us in the United States because, more than just about any other culture, we have an ideology of individualism which can blind us to that connectedness.

The pandemic of Covid-19 has spread, well…, virally. That is, it caught so many by surprise because it rides on the complex and invisible interconnections between people. Viral outbreaks can only be effectively countered by coordinated planning and cooperative action—each one of us knowing that our mask wearing and social distancing is a vital part of the whole community’s health. But, as we’ve seen in this country, having every state, city or individual out for themselves is a recipe for disaster. This pandemic calls on us to realize our connectedness and work together for all our lives and health. The paradox of all our “social distancing” and separations has been to remind us how deeply we are all woven together.

When we are faced with extreme weather such as the fires raging in the Western U.S., we are tired of hearing that “no one weather event can conclusively be attributed to climate change.”  Yes, it is true that technically no one event can be said to be directly caused by climate change—because in any complex system individual events can’t be determined and predicted—but the larger global climate system is clearly changing terrifyingly fast. Individually, it appears to be chaos, but when we lift our eyes to see the pattern of the world’s climate system, it is clear that we need to change our energy consumption and build a new, sustainable way of living if we are to pull ourselves back from this looming disaster.  

It has been especially hard for individualist America to grasp the reality of systemic racism. The ideology of individualism tells us we are supposed to pull ourselves up from our bootstraps, make our way to the “American Dream” by our merit, our striving, etc. You don’t blame your individual failures on some force or circumstance that held you back, and so on. Robin DiAngelo, in her book White Fragility, points out how this ideology of individualism hides systemic racism from our eyes: it tells us that if a person is in jail they must deserve it, and if a person lives in a poor neighborhood they must not have worked as hard as one who lives in a rich one.  It tells us that a person “is” or “is not” a racist, as if that were strictly an individual trait of the person, instead of the water in which we all swim.  

Yet, when my wife and I bought our home, we were able to borrow money for a down payment from our parents. We didn’t think of that as a racial issue at the time, but we now understand that it is: as white people (yes, even as Jews) we have been able for generations to buy homes, get mortgages, access good education and build wealth in ways that have not been accessible to people of color. My owning a home isn’t all about my own work—I’ve benefited from the racist system that has been in place since the beginning of the country.

We have come to a breaking point and also an opportunity: the crises of disease, race, climate and more are all showing us that we have been ignoring our place in the whole. We have been acting as if we are gods and can manipulate the world for our short-term benefit and convenience. We now see that we can change the world, but if we act blindly and greedily, we change it by bringing destruction on ourselves and the rest of creation. Our tradition has taught us from Genesis onward that we are invited to be creators, to audaciously dare to change the world—but only as co-creators, as parts of the awesome and miraculous creation of which we are one part. This year we are being offered the opportunity to birth a new world, to start on a new course of justice, flourishing and security—and we start on Rosh HaShana by waking up with awe to the way that our lives are bound up with the Life of the world.  Let us all be written into the Book of Life!  

* Actually, that would be Rosh Ha’shinui but its close enough: shana can also carry the meaning of change.   

High Holiday Offerings from ALEPH Network Communities

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 13:17

1. Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation (MD)


  • Rosh Hashanah 1st evening and day
  • Rosh Hashanah 2nd evening and day
  • Tashlich
  • Kol Nidre
  • Yom Kippur morning service and afternoon offerings
  • Ne’ilah
  • Everyday T’shuvah – daily gatherings, morning and evening during the 10 Days

Cost: voluntary contribution

For More Information and to Register:  Go to Adat Shalom’s site or contact 

2. Asiyah Jewish Community (MA)


  • Rosh Hashanah 1st evening and day
  • Tashlich
  • Kol Nidre
  • Yom Kippur Morning Service and Afternoon Offerings
  • Ne’ilah

Cost: Sliding scale; limited number of free tickets

For More Information and To Register:


3. Congregation Or HaLev (NJ)


  • Selichot (Sept. 12)
  • Rosh Hashanah, 1st evening and day
  • Kol Nidre
  • Yom Kippur Morning Service
  • Yizkor 
  • Ne’ilah

Cost: $150 per adult, $250 per family, Under 21- free. This cost covers admittance to all services. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds or financial hardships. 

How to Register: Contact Rabbi Deb Smith at for more information and for registration. You will need a zoom number and password to attend which will be provided to you at the time of registration. 

For More Information:

4. Or Ahavah (FL)


  • Preparing Spiritually for the High Holidays, August 23
  • Rosh Hashanah, 1st evening and day
  • Erev Yom Kippur mikveh meditation and dinner
  • Kol Nidre
  • Yom Kippur morning service and afternoon offerings
  • Ne’ilah, Havdallah, and Break-fast

Cost: $360 for everything or what you can afford

How to Register: Contact for more info, questions or to register

More Information: Services follow underlying structure but are expressed creatively. Significant meditations are interspersed throughout services. Very moving Yizkor service. Essential silence is observed throughout Yom Kippur. There is no experience necessary for these gatherings, only an open heart and mind. 

5. B’nai Or , Renewal of Boston (MA)


  • Rosh Hashanah 1st evening and day 
  • Kol Nidre
  • Yom Kippur morning service and afternoon offerings
  • Ne’ilah

Cost: $36 per Rosh Hashanah, $36 per Yom Kippur

More Information:  Our renewal services are musical, creative, thought provoking, and neshamah deepening

How to Register:


6. Ohel HaChidusch (Berlin, Germany)


  • Rosh Hashanah 1st evening and day
  • Tashlich
  • Kol Nidre
  • Yom Kippur morning service, afternoon offerings, and Yizkor
  • Ne’ilah

Cost: Donations are welcome

For More Information and to Register: Contact or visit Services will be in German/Hebrew. We will use the Makhzor Lev Shalem. 

7. Kehilla Community Synagogue (CA)


  • Selichot (September 12)
  • Rosh Hashanah 1st evening and day
  • Rosh Hashanah 2nd day services
  • Tashlich
  • Shabbat Shuva and Healing Service (September 26)
  • Yom Kippur morning service and afternoon offerings
  • Yizkor and Ne’ilah

Cost: We invite you to register for services and to consider making a contribution to help sustain Kehilla.

For More Information and to Register: Visit our site and register here.

The Well {a poem}

Mon, 08/31/2020 - 15:06

by Jena Schwartz

~ for the first day of Elul

Start here is what I hear,
the late-afternoon August light resting
on the green disks of oak leaves.

Where is the well? I ask, half-expecting
an answer, as if a map might fall from the branches
above me, as if directions will land in my lap
telling me which way to go, where to turn,
when to pause, where to watch for danger,
when to sit perfectly still, simply enjoying
the gentle breeze that doesn’t carry a hint
of ash or smoke or hatred.

Of course, no such answer comes,
no map materializes.

It is just me here on this chair, neighbors
chatting one house down, the hours passing,
the weeks, months, and years, too,
knowing that there are fires burning,
knowing there are so many suffering,
knowing that the well is never far
if sometimes empty.

And so what if it is empty?
Tell us about that emptiness, then,
tell me about the time you sat
with a stranger who was also somehow like an old friend,
high up in the trees, dipping into some deeper stream
of time than the one we can see, a shimmer
of golden light that runs like a hidden spring
beneath the places where we’ve covered over
and siphoned off, lost touch – running our hands
where that liquid flows, fingertips tracing
through water, through spirit.

Standing at the well, I find myself
peering, squinting, hoping something
becomes visible to me, reaching for rope,
calling down into the darkness
as if my own voice might be returned to me.

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal Welcomes Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael as Spiritual Arts Director

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 12:59

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal welcomes Rabbi Geela Rayzel as our new Spiritual Arts Director. Rabbi Geela Rayzel is an accomplished rabbi, singer, songwriter, author and artist who excels at providing spiritual leadership and vision, guidance and innovation and a master of crafting spirit-filled programs and heart-felt rituals.

In her new role, Rabbi Geela Rayzel will continue to build on some of the magical programming that she has already brought to ALEPH—Zoom Gala Gala, Escorting the Queen Shechinah, Here Comes the Sun Solstice Celebration and Reb Zalman’s Yahrzeit Commemoration. New offerings that will be launched soon include Rosh HaShanah: Inviting in the Sweetness, Sukkot Shazoom, Havdalah Love and more.

“We are so excited to have Reb Rayzel join the ALEPH team as a project director,” says SooJi Min-Maranda, ALEPH’s executive director. “Her innovative programming and creative vision enlivens Judaism in the way that Reb Zalman z”l always envisioned.”

Founded in 1993, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal envisions a contemporary Judaism that is joyous, creative, spiritually rich, socially progressive, and earth-aware. ALEPH brings spiritual vitality and passion into the daily lives of Jews through programs that empower leadership, build communities, and generate powerful experiences and practical resources. We currently have 40 network affiliates/communities located both in the US and abroad.

Today, Jewish Renewal is a trans-denominational approach to revitalizing Judaism. We combine the socially progressive values of egalitarianism, the joy of Hasidism, the informed do-it-yourself spirit of the chavurah movement, and the accumulated wisdom of centuries of tradition.

ALEPH’s strategy is to develop the next generation of leaders and modernize ritual practice to ensure organizational and philosophical stability. Strategic priorities focus on innovation and cultivation of new programming, developing strategic partnerships, investing in the next generation of Jewish leaders, and building a multicultural, multiracial organization. You can learn more about ALEPH at

Rabbi Geela Rayzel received her ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and has smicha from Reb Zalman z”l. She completed a Senior Educator’s program at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Melton Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora; as well as a one-year intensive in Jewish Studies at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. She also holds a MA in Contemporary Jewish Studies from Brandeis University. You can learn more about Rabbi Geela Rayzel’s other creative projects at

An Elul Beacon

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 12:23
By Rabbi Anne Brenner

I spent the first three days of the Jewish month of Elul polishing a lamp that has hung in the upstairs stairwell of my home for eighty years. I thought that the lamp was made out of cast iron, but discovered, after applying a mixture of abrasive compounds and elbow grease, that it was crafted of shiny brass. Only after finishing the project, did I catch the appropriateness of the endeavor.  For Elul is traditionally a month for polishing the soul. During this time we search ourselves for blemishes. Then, through the process of Teshuva, we polish and refine ourselves. The culmination of this refinement is the fast of Yom Kippur, from which we hope to emerge as shining and radiant as my restored lamp.

The word Teshuva, heard so often during the month of Elul and the first ten days of Tishre, is unfortunately translated as “repentance.” Thus the word carries a harshness that can lead us to feel shame about ways we may have “blown it” during the previous year. Teshuva, however, is more about cultivating compassion than about being held in judgment. Legend tells us that Teshuva was created even before the creation of the world. This suggests that built into the structure of the universe is the understanding that mistakes will be made, as well as the consolation that there is always the opportunity to begin again. Teshuva is as constant in our spiritual world as gravity is in our physical world. Judaism provides this “spiritual technology” for continually acknowledging both that “to err is human” and that we can repair our mistakes.

The first mechanism for this process of renewal (perhaps a more apt translation of the word “Teshuva”) is to cultivate compassion. Compassion is the theme of the chant that we sing over and over during the High Holidays:

Adonai, Adonai, El Rachum v’Chanun, Eyrech Ahpayim, v’rav Chesed, v’emet,notzr chesed lalalfim, notzey avon, v’peshah, vchatah, v’nakay.

Adonai, Adonai, The Eternal, is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands of generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and cleaning.”

The Torah teaches that God gave this chant to Moses, following the construction of the golden calf, when God’s rage was so great as to consider the destruction of the Hebrew people. God gave the chant as a protective agent, instructing Moses to use it as a kind of charm should God ever again get that angry with the people. Singing this chant was to insure that God’s attributes of compassion would triumph over God’s attributes of anger and serve as a shield.

I try to keep this chant going quietly in my head at all times. Setting my idle with these words running almost inaudibly in the background helps me to remember God’s presence and reminds me of the qualities of Holiness I seek to emulate. The volume rises whenever I am angry with myself, feeling that I have missed the mark or could have done better. I appeal to the God-like part of myself to be compassionate and not give over to judgment, anger, or despair. I find that in confronting a mistake or disappointment, it is much more effective to invoke compassion than judgment. I am much more likely to change for the better in an atmosphere of loving and compassionate acceptance than in one where I am made to feel shame.

Like all of us, in this year of coronavirus, I draw on all of my spiritual resources to see myself through. I remember times in the past that I have used this chant to see myself through other rough times.  The chant was especially helpful to me in my work as a Red Cross Mental Health worker following Hurricane Katrina, as I watched the changing phases of the Elul moon through the broken Mississippi pines. I chanted to calm my inner responses of horror as I listened to the harrowing stories of survival shared with me in the aftermath of the storm. The words of comfort and compassion enabled me to soothe myself so that I could be a soothing presence for those who had lived the Katrina nightmare. The chant helped me channel raw anger into productive action as I raged at the ineptitude of public officials who continued to fail to provide adequate resources for relief and recovery in the Gulf coast region. Now it helps to quiet me as I listen in dismay to the distortions of the health care debate by those who would do well to take these words of compassion to heart.

When I had cancer this chant calmed me. It made it possible for me to shift my primary identification of self as physical being to a sense of myself as a soul. Aided by my understanding of the soul as part of God and therefore eternal, I took instruction from Psalm XX, which says, “Into God’s hands, I place my soul. God is with me, I shall not fear.” This helped me to face the unknown without fear or judgment.

Now I use this chant in my work as a Psychotherapist and Spiritual Director. I employ it as I listen to people who are being hard on themselves or who are suffering in some way. Listening in stereo, I blend the story they share with the elements of compassion that the chant asserts. Silently humming the sweet words of this chant as I listen to others, I pray that they will find peace, forgiveness, and resilience inside themselves. This is a riff on an aphorism of my New Orleans up- bringing, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Those pesky insects within are more likely to be tamed if a reprimand is sweet rather than acidic. Our High Holiday aspirations for ourselves are more likely realized when we polish our souls with love. My lamp will be hung at the close of Yom Kippur. Having been lovingly scrubbed, it will move downstairs, as if bringing the refined light of above to the lower places in which I live. Hopefully the light that shone above, but was obscured behind the encrustations of tarnish and time will be released to refresh our lives below, beaconing us, during the New Year, to bring light and compassion to each other and into the world.