Listening Tour


ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour
The ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour arose out of a desire to learn more about who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. In many ways, Renewal and ALEPH have grown and succeeded beyond their original visions, which is a gratifying testament to all we offer the world, and to the vision and skill of teachers and leaders who helped bring us to this moment.  Naturally, with growth and success come questions, new challenges and new opportunities.

In that spirit, ALEPH co-chairs Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Markus have embarked on an ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour to hear from the breadth and depth of our community – from people who are core parts of ALEPH now; people connected to ALEPH communities; people who once were connected with ALEPH in some way but today travel in other circles; and people never connected with ALEPH but who are renewing Judaism in ways closely aligned in method, intention and heart. Just as all of us flow in the legacy of what Reb Zalman z"l bequeathed to Jewish Renewal and the world, all of us can build on that enduring legacy by helping shape the vibrant future of ALEPH and Jewish Renewal.

Where we’re headed: State of Renewal Report, fall 2016
By Rosh Hashana 2016/5777, we intend to be able to share a report on the State of Jewish Renewal: who and where we are, where we’ve come from, and where we think this amazing and ever-changing enterprise of Jewish Renewal is headed in years to come.

Listening Tour Questions
Everywhere we go, we’re bringing the set of questions we posed at the beginning of this endeavor. What do you most cherish about Renewal that you hope the future will carry forward?  What would you jettison or change?  What new focus would you recommend in coming years?  Recognizing that Renewal is expanding beyond ALEPH alone, we especially welcome observations about the following:


  • Innovation Space.  How can we cultivate a shared pan-Renewal “ecosystem” for continued spiritual and organizational innovation?  What are ideal preconditions for successful spiritual and organizational innovation, and how can we best maximize those conditions?  What do we most need to teach innovation to future leaders and seekers?

  • Renewal as Alliance.  How can we together steward this “ecosystem” without falling into competitive traps of zero-sum financial games?  Given that Renewal is a phenomenon far larger than ALEPH, should ALEPH aspire to make real its title (“Alliance for Jewish Renewal”)?  What should ALEPH’s role be in such an alliance – hub, umbrella, incubator or something else?

  • Strategic Strengths and Weaknesses.  What are ALEPH’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, and what specific recommendations for ALEPH and Renewal’s futures flow from them?

  • Not Knowing.  What question isn’t here that should be?  How would you answer it?


Three Ways to Participate
One way to participate is by emailing the co-chairs at If you have a story, perspective, observation, concern or complaint you want to offer, we want to hear it. What do you most cherish about Renewal that you hope the future will carry forward? What would you jettison or change? What new focus would you recommend in coming years?

A second way to participate is to sit with the co-chairs by video.  If you wish to meet by video, please email with a brief summary of what you’d like to discuss, and we’ll do our very best to find a time.

A third way to participate is “live” at Listening Tour events.



Listening Tour Weekends
At each Listening Tour site visit, we typically include the following events in partnership with sponsoring congregations and communities:

  • Renewal-style Kabbalat Shabbat
  • Dinner for a curated small group of visionary leaders, teachers and thinkers
  • Shabbat morning services
  • A large-group "open mike" session where we can harvest the hopes and dreams of the broader local Jewish Renewal community
  • Small-group curated discussion about the future of Judaism, Renewal and ALEPH (not always the same!)
  • Small-group curated discussion about tachlis (practical next steps) and opportunities going forward.

Curated Small Groups

In each community, we evolve a curated group of 10-15 visionary teachers, leaders and thinkers who together are diverse and engaging.  Some are "within" ALEPH / Jewish Renewal, and others come from outside the self-identified Jewish Renewal community. All are interested in the future of Jewish life generally and heart-centered innovation particularly, and all are leaders who have a stake in what ALEPH and Renewal are and become.  

Our curated small groups thus far have included some truly wonderful rabbis, artists, scholars, thinkers, and teachers, among them Maggid Yitzchak Buxbaum, Rabbi Art Green, Rabbi Jill Hammer, Rabbi Jay Michaelson, Maggid Penninah Schram, and Rabbi Moshe Waldoks.

Listening Tour Itinerary

  • New York – May 2015
  • Ruach ha’Aretz – July 2015
  • Boston – 10/9-11
  • Philadelphia – 10/30-11/1
  • Washington – 11/13-15
  • OHALAH Conference – 1/10-13
  • Rabbis Without Borders - 1/31-2/3
  • Montreal – 3/13-15
  • Vancouver – 3/25-27
  • San Diego – 4/7-9
  • Los Angeles – 4/10-11
  • Bay Area – 4/15-17
  • Boulder – 5/20-22 
  • Kallah 2016 – 7/11-17

Listening Tour Co-Sponsors
Our New York weekend was co-hosted by Romemu and by Yeshivat Mahara”t, the groundbreaking seminary ordaining Orthodox women to serve as klei kodesh. Our Boston was co-hosted by transdenominational seminary Hebrew College,  by B’nai Or, and by Mayyim Hayyim. Our Philadelphia weekend was co-hosted by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, P’nai Or, and Mishkan Shalom. Our Montreal weekend will be hosted by B'nai Or of Montreal and Mile End Chavurah. Our Vancouver weekend will be hosted by Or Shalom. Our California visit will be co-hosted by Holistic Jew, B'nai Horin, the Aquarian Minyan, Chochmat Ha-Lev, and Kehilla Community Synagogue. Our visit to Boulder will be co-hosted by Nevei Kodesh and Pardes Levavot.

(Stay tuned for information about the institutions hosting / co-sponsoring our future visits.)

We are deeply grateful to the donors who are making this Listening Tour possible, among them

Binah Block
Rabbi Evan Krame
Susan Raskin

If you are interested in being a fiscal sponsor for part of the listening tour, contact Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin at