The foundation and center of the ALEPH Ordination Program/AOP is the Mystery we name God. We understand Judaism to be the individual and collective responses of Jews throughout our history, both in thought and deed, to the ongoing manifestations of the Divine. In studying religious texts, Jewish history, and the visions and values of our spiritual leaders, we are concerned with how the Divine has been and is now being revealed through Jewish experience. And we are equally concerned with how we – as individuals and as communities – respond to Divine revelations in our solitude, in our relationships and in our work.
We expect students to become masters of tradition, in continuous dialogue with our ancestors. But we keep in mind the teaching of the Ba’al Shem Tov: “We say, ‘Eloheynu v’elohey avoteynu’ (and now imoteynu) in that order because our first concern is with how we experience the Divine.” We have faith that the still, small Voice will direct our students in each present moment – as we continually experience Divine direction – im b’kolo tish’ma-u, if we choose to hear. We pray that they listen and, in their pursuit of Torah, learn how they are being called to the task of integrating spiritual and moral treasures from our heritage into their own lives, that they become messengers to those who seek to drink from the Living Water. AOP students are highly motivated individuals who wish to ground their personal spiritual practice in a deep commitment to the Jewish path.
AOP offers a comprehensive curriculum of study and practica embracing both traditional and innovative/experiential learning modalities. Our students are expected to demonstrate a high level of Jewish literacy and personal integrity, and to model a life path of personal growth and self-awareness. Students completing this program are Jewish teachers, leaders, artists, healers, and spiritual guides at once empowered and compassionate.
Intensive, Low-Residency Adult Learning Programs
AOP is not a brick and mortar institution. Our students come from throughout the US, as well as Canada, South America, Israel, and Europe. All our programs blend a variety of modalities of learning, including our own video-conference courses and retreats, other distance-learning opportunities, private tutorials, and also coursework undertaken in universities, colleges, synagogues, and seminaries to which a student has access – all under the supervision of the student’s Director of Studies/DOS.
AOP offers 12 to 14 live video-conference courses per semester, which fulfill a significant percentage of the curriculum requirements. Each student is paired with a Director of Studies/DOS, who supervises the academic aspects of her/his ordination studies. The DOS of a rabbinic student would be a member of the Academic VAAD. Rabbinic pastor students work with the Director of the Rabbinic Pastor Program, RP Shulamit Fagan as their DOS, while cantorial students work with the Director of the Cantorial Program, Hazzan Jack Kessler.
Thus each student’s program of study is customized, but each student fulfills the curriculum requirements with ongoing supervision and guidance.
Our live online classrooms employ state-of-the-art videoconferencing for full-semester courses, which, along with intensive hevruta study, are the main mode of interactive learning throughout the year.
Students also come together on-site for the residential components of our program. Our summer intensive retreats and our winter shabbaton/conference offer our students the opportunity to regularly gather together as a learning community. Because our students are spread over several countries and even continents, our retreats and gatherings are a significant feature of our program.
Residential Components – Retreats and Conferences
The ALEPH Kallah
Talmidim attend up to two weeks of learning in early July each year. The ALEPH Kallah is a week-long public festival of Jewish Renewal-style learning, davvenen’, art, music, theater, workshops, concerts – a fabulous gathering for anyone interested in Jewish Renewal. Courses can be taken for AOP credit at Kallah.
Attendance at Kallah is presumed for all our talmidim, as Kallah is a primary opportunity to experience a gathering of Jewish Renewal activists from around the world, to learn with an array of the most talented Jewish Renewal teachers, and is a prime location for our own students to rise into prominence and leadership. While attendance at every Kallah is not required, it is in the best interest of our students to be at Kallah as often as possible – to learn, teach and become an active participant in the larger, international Renewal fellowship. Certain required courses, such as the week-long Lifecycle Rituals Practicum, are typically offered during an additional summer retreat.
Intensive Study Week, aka “Smicha Week”
Purposefully scheduled immediately adjacent to Kallah or Ruach is the Ordination Program Intensive Study Week, often called “Smicha Week”. Talmidim in all programs are required to attend this core residential event, created specifically for them. It is scheduled back-to-back with Kallah or an additional retreat in order to make attending both in tandem logistically convenient. Students can earn up to two units of credit – equivalent to two full-semester courses – during this one-week retreat.
Also, every year the AOP faculty invites serious applicants to join Smicha Week to become part of our learning community and to complete the interview portion of their application. This invitation enables faculty and students to meet applicants, and applicants can experience the style of learning and hevra that AOP offers.
OHALAH Shabbaton and Conference
Our winter gathering is OHALAH Shabbaton and Conference, which typically takes place during the first or second week in January. This gathering brings Renewal rabbis, cantors, rabbinic pastors and students from around the world to OHALAH: Agudat HaRabbanim L’Hithadshut HaYahadut – Association of Rabbis/Cantors/Rabbinic Pastors for Jewish Renewal. This professional association conference is preceded by a shabbaton planned by AOP students. The Sunday before the conference is also the date of our . Matriculated students and clergy can attend the full conference. Serious applicants can be invited to attend the Shabbaton and the ordination/smicha ceremony.
The Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute/DLTI
The Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute/DLTI is a core feature of our program and a requirement for all rabbinic, rabbinic pastor, and cantorial students. This two-year training program brings together clergy, students, and lay leaders of all backgrounds for four intensive weeks of skill-building (July and February) in the high art of leading public prayer.
The role of clergy requires the highest ethical standards in our relationships with individuals, congregants, and the larger community. All ALEPH teachers and students comply with the ALEPH ethics code. When students become student members or full members of OHALAH or the RPA ( the Jewish Renewal rabbinic, cantorial and rabbinic pastor professional associations) they are likewise also subject to these ethics codes. ALEPH graduates remain subject to the ALEPH ethics code post-graduation.