The foundation and center of the ALEPH Ordination Program 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.
Students in the ALEPH Ordination Program are highly motivated individuals who wish to ground their personal spiritual practice in a deep commitment to the Jewish path.
The ALEPH Ordination Program offers a comprehensive curriculum of study and practica embracing both traditional and innovative/experiential learning modalities. ALEPH 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 empowered and compassionate Jewish teachers and leaders, artists, healers, and spiritual guides.
Intensive, Low-residency Adult Learning Programs
The ALEPH Ordination Program (AOP) is not a brick and mortar institution. Our students come from throughout the US, and also Canada, South America, Israel and Europe. All our programs blend a variety of modalities of learning, including our own programs and video-teleconference courses, other distance learning and teleconference courses, and also coursework and tutorials that are undertaken in universities, colleges, synagogues and seminaries to which a student has access, supervised by the student's Director of Studies.
AOP offers 12 to 14 live videoconference courses per semester which fulfill a significant percentage of the curriculum requirements. To supervise their program the rabbinic students choose a Director of Studies from the group of rabbis who serve on the Rabbinic Program Academic VAAD; the rabbinic pastor's "DOS" is the Director of the Rabbinic Pastor Program, RP Shulamit Fagan. 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 our full semester-length courses, which, along with intensive hevruta study, are the main modes 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 and conference offer our students the opportunity to regularly gather together as a learning community. Because our students are spread over several counties and even continents, our retreats and gatherings are a significant feature of our program.
Retreat and Conference Components
1. The ALEPH Kallah and Ruach Ha’Aretz Summer Retreats
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. Ruach Ha’Aretz alternates with Kallah, providing an opportunity for similar experiences in a smaller retreat setting. Courses can be taken for Ordination Program academic credit at Kallah and Ruach. 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. Attendance at Ruach Ha’Aretz is also highly recommended, with opportunities for talmidim to teach, lead davvenen’ and to learn in this more intimate setting. Certain required courses, such as the weeklong Lifecycle Practicum, are typically offered during the Ruach retreat.
2. The Ordination Program Intensive Learning Week, aka “Smicha Week”
Purposefully scheduled immediately adjacent to Kallah or Ruach is the Ordination Program Intensive Learning Week, often called “smicha-student week” or even just colloquially “smicha week.” All talmidim in all programs are required to attend this Ordination Program core residential event, created specifically for them. It is scheduled back-to-back with Kallah or Ruach in order to make attending both in tandem logistically convenient. Two full-unit courses can be taken at smicha week. As cost of the entire retreat including room and board, is generally not much more than the cost of two units of credit taken through video-conference, this learning experience is both economical and builds the AOP community.
Also, every year the AOP faculty invites serious applicants to join our smicha week retreat to become part of our learning community and complete the interview aspect of their application. This invitation enables faculty and students to meet applicants and applicants can experience the style of learning and hevra that the AOP offers.
3. OHALAH: Our Winter Retreat
Our winter gathering is typically 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 the ALEPH Ordination Program students. The Sunday before the conference begins is the date of our ordination ceremony. Matriculated students and clergy can attend the full conference. Serious applicants can be invited to attend the Shabbaton and the Sunday Ordination ceremony. www.ohalah.org
4. The Davvenen Leadership Training Institute (DLTI)
The Davvenen Leadership Training Institute is a further core feature all our ordination programs. This 4-week-over-two-years training program brings together rabbis, cantors, rabbinic pastors; rabbinic, cantorial and rabbinic pastor students, and lay leaders of all backgrounds for four intensive weeks of skill building in the high art of leadership of public prayer. http://dlti.org/
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. The ALEPH ethics code can be found at: https://aleph.org/ethics. The OHALAH ethics policy can be found at: http://ohalah.org/about-us/ohalah-code-of-ethics/.