The Kol Aleph Blog
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
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.
Rabbi Diane Elliot
The ghastly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, during Shabbat services yesterday morning is shocking, saddening, and deeply disturbing. Our hearts are breaking as we pray for our fellow Jews who were affected this morning. Even as we share their grief, let us also reach out and reassure each other. When hate and violence rise up, let us commit to fight it and overcome it. We all seek to live lovingly and peaceably with each other. Let us work to bring that about.
– Rabbi Aura Ahuvia
Chair, ALEPH Board of Directors
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