ALEPH Ordination Program Intensive Study Week 5776 – aka Smicha Week

Latest Info: Click here for Detailed Schedule (what, when, and where)

The 2016 Ordination Program Intensive was July 3 – 10, 2016, preceding Kallah, at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, Colorado.

An amazing opportunity to spend an intensive, spiritually uplifting, intellectually stimulating week of learning with your fellow students in all the ALEPH ordination programs.

ALEPH ordination program

  • An amazing opportunity to spend an intensive, spiritually uplifting, intellectually stimulating week of learning with your fellow students in all the ALEPH ordination programs!

  • Study with members of the Va’ad and special guest teachers; meet informally with your teachers and directors of study.

  • Surround yourself with constant hevruta, in small classes and informal groups throughout the week.

  • Tailor your learning to your academic plan, your energy, your interest. Earn 1 unit of AOP credit, 2 units, no units, partial units [see Classes/Workshops/Modules for details]
  • Soar with daily student-led davenning! Sign up to lead or co-lead, and to receive feedback on new approaches from ALEPH teachers.


  • Thoughtfully read all the information below.
  • Complete the online registration:
  • Please indicate ALL your class/workshop/module choices in your registration.
  • You have the option of paying 50% when you register. All remaining balances are due by June 1, 2016. A late fee will be added to registrations completed after June 1.
  • Questions regarding payments and financial arrangements should be directed to Ming at (215) 247-9700 x21 or
  • Questions regarding program and lodging should be directed to


Smicha Week is for current students of the ALEPH Ordination Program (AOP), as well as candidates whose application is in process. AOP students are welcome to register now for Smicha Week. If you are an applicant for one of our ordination programs, you must have a letter of invitation from the director of that program – Rabbi Marcia Prager, Rabbinic Pastor Shulamit Fagan, or Hazzan Jack Kessler – before you can register for Smicha Week. If you have any questions, please contact Ming at (215) 247-9700 x21.


You’re flying in to the Denver International Airport. The retreat site, Colorado State University (CSU), Fort Collins, is 90 minutes from the airport.

We have made an arrangement for a discounted rate with Green Ride for shuttles from/to Denver International Airport. Using the link below, you will be able to make your own shuttle reservations for a round-trip fare of $58 or a one-way fare of $29.

The discount window has been set for July 2 to 19, that is, arriving no earlier than July 2 and departing no later than July 19 – if booking outside of this window, the discount link will display an error message.

NOTE: Although it asks for a “discount code” at the bottom of the page, you DO NOT need to enter one – the code has already been built into this special form for ALEPH. Entering a code will generate an error message!

Make your arrangements to arrive at the retreat site between 2 and 4 pm on Sunday, July 3. There will be an orientation for all applicants who have been invited to Smicha Week at 3:30 pm. All participants (current students and applicants) will join for an orientation at 5 pm.

Smicha Week will end on Sunday, July 10, at 11:30 am.

The ALEPH Kallah starts on Monday, July 11 (registration starts at 1 pm).  If you’re planning to attend Kallah – and if you want to stay on the CSU campus on Sunday, July 10 – please be sure to add “early Sunday arrival” ($90) to your Kallah registration.


Smicha Week will come to life on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins (the site of the 1995 and 1997 Kallot). Participants are able to choose from several lodging options in a beautiful state-of-the-art residential village. The campus has green spaces, swimming facilities and other amenities. All our classes will meet in the residential village.

You will need to buy a day pass to use the recreation center. The pool and workout center are state-of-the-art, clean and brand-new. The cost per day is $5 for adults.

The dining hall kitchen will be made kosher under the supervision of Rabbi Dennis Beck-Berman. All meals will be dairy/vegetarian with fish options at times. Vegan diets and other special dietary needs will be accommodated to the very best of our ability. Residence facilities also have kitchens with refrigerators for those who need to bring special foods.

Lodging Options

Registration prices include classes/workshops, programs, housing (except for Commuters), and meals.

Single Room (sharing a bathroom with another single room) – $2,000 plus T’rumah*

Double Room (private bathroom) – $1,850 plus T’rumah*

Double Room (community-style bathroom) – $1,700 plus T’rumah*

Commuter (no housing, but meals and on-campus parking are included) – $1,300 plus T’rumah*

*In the spirit of T’rumah (gift or offering), everyone who participates in an ALEPH program contributes to the T’rumah Financial Assistance Fund via a 3% registration fee. This enables ALEPH to make programs financially accessible to as many participants as possible.

Off Campus Accommodation

ALEPH has made group-rate arrangements with the Hilton and Best Western – both near the campus. If you need to stay off-campus, please contact us at for more information. Commuters must provide own transportation.

NOTE: All Smicha Week students are expected to be on-site for Shacharit, which begins at 7 am, as well as all activities through Maariv, which end at 10 pm. Staying offsite is not an option to be taken lightly. We seek to create a community of students and faculty, and wish for the container to remain intact.


Financial aid is available for AOP students who express a demonstrated need. 

Deadline for application was Friday, April 8. The application is CLOSED.

Aid will be offered on a sliding scale (usually 10% to 45% of the fee). Submitting an application does not guarantee aid support as resources are limited.

AOP financial aid is made possible in part by the T’rumah Financial Aid Fund and the generous support of our donors and musmachim.


You have the option to take one class (1 unit of AOP credit), 2 classes (2 units), workshops (90 minutes/one time), modules (90 minutes/5 days), or some combination of all of these options – units of credit for workshops/modules vary. See below for more details.

It is our intention to offer students the opportunity to choose a more or less intensive week of learning, according to their academic plan, energy and interests, while also focusing on the experience of being in community with the students and faculty of the AOP. Just because we are offering the learning doesn’t mean that you must sign up for classes. The idea is for you to choose how your week is scheduled.

NOTE: Students are encouraged to check in with their Director of Studies (DOS) prior to registering for courses at Smicha Week. Applicants may check in with the directors of their respective programs.

The schedule includes 3 hours of learning in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon, Monday through Friday, as well as evening beit midrash and unique evening programs for the whole community.

Classes for a full unit of AOP credit will meet for 3 hours daily – a total of 15 hours. These classes, as in the past, will include pre-retreat preparation/readings and a post-retreat assignment.

Workshops & modules will meet for 90 minutes daily – during the 3-hour learning time. Workshops will be offered one time. Modules will be offered for 5 consecutive days in the same time period. These workshops/modules will be self-contained. There will be NO preparation and follow-up assignments.

A student who is not taking a class during the morning or afternoon session may choose to take a combination of workshops/modules, according to the discrete topics being offered. Any combination of sessions, less than 15 hours, will be assigned credit at the discretion of the DOS.

NOTE: Please indicate ALL your choices of classes/workshops/modules in your Smicha Week registration.

Additionally, Reb Steven will offer an early morning study once again. Participation in this study group will also earn partial credit.

Early Morning Mishnayot with Rabbi Steven Silvern

What does the Mishna say about reading the megillah?  Who can read and why?  We’ll spend time looking at both Chapter 2 of the Mishnah, and at the Bartanura. Click here for the text we will be using.

AM Classes

Rabbi Shohama Harris Wiener and Rabbi David Evan Markus 

One unit in Tanakh or Kli Kodesh (elective) 

Physical illness and healing are essential pastoral, theological and practical interests for spiritual leaders – and uncommonly powerful in their impact on heart, mind and spirit. Drawing from a broad Jewish toolkit ranging from the rational to the mystical, we will explore spiritual dynamics of illness, theologies of illness and healing, and inwardly authentic responses to illness that may (or may not) promote healing. 

Along the way, we will journey deep into faith, doubt, philosophy, clergy roles, liturgies and rituals. Topics will include making meaning of illness and healing, theodicy, disability, laws of bikkur cholim (visiting the ill), practices of a melitz yosher (mystical advocate), healing services and more. Texts will be drawn from Tanakh, Talmud, Codes, Hasidut, Siddur and contemporary writings; materials will be provided in both original and translation.

Pre-intensive assignment (due June 17) will including readings and a response paper: materials will be posted on AOP’s Moodle site by May 15. Post-Smicha Week assignment will be a paper or project related to course readings and classes.

Rabbi Elliot K. Ginsburg

One unit in Hasidism and Kabbalah

Click here for syllabus.

In this course, we will explore the mystical teachings of one of the most beloved of all the hasidic masters, Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, who is well-known both as a mystical adept and as a social leader and intercessor before the Holy One on behalf of the community. Focus in the course will be on plumbing key themes in his teachings, while refining our Hebrew text-reading skills—thereby gaining intimacy with this great rebbe, one of Reb Zalman’s favorites. The key text is the two-volume edition of the Kedushat Levi published by Mechon Hadrat Chen; I will provide supplements from cognate works and from the mayseh (tale) literature and the musical repertoire. 

Themes will include: Hasidic prayer and the practice of Heightened Awareness, serving through Love/Devotion (mesirut nefesh), skillfully moving between Yesh and Ayin (dual and non-dual consciousness), Tzimtzum and Tiqqun (removing the veils, promoting healing), Radical Love of the Other, and generating New Torah: entering the White Letters. We will also explore Levi Yitzhak’s understanding of the middot and—the cherry on top—the role of Humor in opening up access to the Sacred/Torah/the Shekhinah. Our text work will be supplemented by niggun, brief meditations, and yes—barely controlled bouts of humor.

Hazzan Jack Kessler

For Cantorial Program students and applicants.

The class will include improv, coaching, and work with chant. Group and customized assignments will be sent out late spring.


Rabbi Leila Gal Berner

One unit in Tanakh or Kli Kodesh (elective)

In his youth, Yosef the dreamer is both naïve and arrogant, sharing dreams of dominion over his brothers, who resent him and plot to rid themselves of him. They throw Yosef into a dark pit, sell him off to a caravan of traders and Yosef ends up in Mitzrayim. After many trials and tribulations, Yosef rises to power in Pharaoh’s court and many years later, he reunited with his brothers and finally forgives them. Over these years Yosef has matured and become wiser. Now humble in his power, he is able to be a loving and forgiving brother and a loyal and caring son to his elderly father, Yaakov.

In myriad ways, Yosef’s story reflects so many of our own lives as we move beyond family conflict and anger, youthful arrogance and mistakes we deeply regret. His story reflects our journeys toward wisdom and compassion. As we journey with Yosef in deep contemplation, and listen for the heartbeats of each of the people in the family saga, we might hear the murmurs of our own soul-beats, and find the echoes of our own stories…

Over several years, Reb Leila has developed a Jewish adaptation of a centuries-old contemplative Christian form of engagement with the Hebrew scriptures that she has named Kriat ha-kodesh™ — “Reading the Holy.” During the week, students will learn new midrashim and the Kriat ha-kodesh™ method and they will experience the power of listening not only with ears and mind, but with heart, spirit and soul. Through the Kriat ha-kodesh™ method as students, your hearts, minds and souls will become engaged through deep listening and meditation on Torah’s words in the context of your own life experience.

Students will have a new tool in their kitbag to pilot as they offer Kriat ha-kodesh™ in their home communities.

Pre-Smicha Week assignment:

  • Read the whole story of Yosef carefully in Hebrew and in English (Bereishit 37, 39 to 50. This should take several days of slow, contemplative reading.
  • When you encounter verses that jump off the page and seem to “grab” your heart, read them out loud to yourself, several times — slowly — in English and in Hebrew. If you stumble over the Hebrew as you read out loud, slow down and read several more times.
  • Pause between each reading and ask yourself: Why did these particular words touch my heart? Read the words out loud again — slowly. 
  • As you read, keep a journal of what you are feeling (not what you are thinking) about what you imagine each of the people in this story is feeling. This includes Yaakov, each of the brothers mentioned, at different moments as events unfold, Potiphar and his (unnamed) wife, the cupbearer and the baker and Pharaoh. As you write, imagine the emotional landscape in which events are unfolding.
  • Please read the introduction to lectio divina, at the following link:

This is the Christian spiritual practice that I have adapted to form a new Jewish contemplative entry into the Torah text. I have named this practice Kriat ha-kodesh ™ .

During Smicha Week, hevruta groups will practice the Kriat ha-kodesh™ method and, after the week is over, they will cooperatively write up their work. Please bring a good bi-lingual edition of the TaNaKH with you to class.

Rabbi Victor Gross and Rabbi Shaya Isenberg

One unit in Jewish Thought

An essential part of Reb Zalman’s yerushah/inheritance is his overall insistence that the holy work we do, including davenen, study, Sage-ing, Deep Ecumenism and Deep Ecology, should be done in a state of Gadlut/expanding consciousness, rather than in our ordinary states of katnut/constricted consciousness. 

Our course will focus on this universal human possibility, exploring its vocabulary, the nature of spiritual practices to induce the state, as well as some of the common obstacles. Here we are helped by explorations of the transpersonal that characterize all inner traditions. Reb Zalman draws from and pursues these traditional and post-traditional teachings.

We’ll look at Hasidic texts explicated in Reb Zalman’s writings, as well as his take on them. And we’ll experiment with several practices designed to facilitate those states, including niggun and imaginal exercises.

Recalling that Reb Zalman considered trans-personal psychology one of his major resources, we’ll read together from Robert W. Godwin’s One Cosmos under God: The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit. This is a Four Worlds approach to the evolution of the cosmos, including personal and inter-personal consciousness.

Readings selected from (all available on Amazon):

Reb Zalman, Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer.

Rober Godwin, One Cosmos under God: The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit. Read: Cosmonaught, Book 2, 3, 4 and Cosmobliteration [this book is recommended, but not required]

Reb Zalman, A Heart Afire. Read: Introduction, Chapters 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and pages 158-161; 163-165; 191; 210-212; 218-219; 224-225.

Martin Buber, I-Thou, Gregor Smith edition. Read: first section of I-Thou Part 1.

PM Classes

Rabbi Vivie Mayer

One unit in Rabbinic Text

This class is now FULL!

The Talmud in Brachot 26b brings an in-depth study of two Beraitot (2nd century teachings), each of which proposes why we pray three times a day. One beraita describes daily prayer as generated by the spontaneous prayers of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the other beraita roots daily prayer in the sacrificial rituals offered in the Holy Temple. This classic juxtaposition between prayer as Avodah/worship and prayer as Tahanunim/supplication persists throughout the ages. We will find this tension between the Tractates of Mishna Brachot and Taanit; between the Rambam/Maimonides and the Ramban/Nahmanides of medieval Spain; and in the participants’ experiences as we reflect together on Keva (set practice) and Kavanna (the intention of the heart) in our own religious lives.

We will be studying Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Brachot 26b – available in pdf here, and available in English translation here. We will also be studying in depth each of the biblical verses cited in the Talmud, so a Tanach is necessary for this course.

All texts will be available in Hebrew/Aramaic and translated to English. The course will be made accessible to those who have limited Hebrew language skills, but Hebrew language will be referred to and used.

Rabbi Andrew Hahn

One unit in Jewish Thought

Texts would draw from: biblical verses and subsequent parshanut; rabbinic sources; Jewish philosophy; classical Kabbalah; and, the lion’s share, from modern Hasidism. As much as possible, we would learn key concepts – and hopeful much more – in Hebrew. A great deal of the material would draw on writings attributed to the Baal Shem Tov, from the Baal ha-Tanya, from Rav Nachman and others. Comparisons with other traditions where in order. 

There would be approximately 70% text study and 30% hands-on experience (chanting, meditation techniques, other body-based modalities and how to teach them). Some texts would be assigned in advance of Smicha Week as preparation for the course. The class would have enough study directly in Hebrew to rise to the level of a text credit. Students would learn a combination of liturgy, philosophy, mysticism and Hasidic sources, organized around the theme. A follow-up project or paper will fulfill the requirement for this course.

Rabbinic Pastor Shulamit Fagan and Rabbi Nadya Gross

This class is now FULL!

One unit in Kli Kodesh (elective)

Using the Tree of Life and 13 Attributes as a map, and Torah, Talmud, Kabbalah, and Mussar sources as directional guides, we will learn how to work with middot in ourselves and others in order to activate the chesed in the world.
Our text study will seek to answer the following questions:

  • What is kindness?
  • Where does it originate?
  • Is God kind?

Once we understand what kindness is in our tradition, and the role it plays in the unfolding of Creation, our next step is to discern how we manifest this all-comprehensive concept in ourselves and our relationships. This will lead to an exploration of how we teach others about the importance of lovingkindness.

There will be a pre-Smicha Week reading assignment and a short reflection paper to be submitted before June 20.

Following Smicha Week, students will be asked to reflect on the transformation they are experiencing in their lives and relationships through an application of the lessons learned.

Pre-Smicha Week reading:
Rabbi Rami Shapiro, The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice [read in its entirety]
Ira F. Stone, A Responsible Life: the Spiritual Path of Mussar, [read chapters 5, 6, 9, 13, 14]


Foundational Elements For Spiritual Leaders In Growing And Nurturing Sacred Communities, Organizations And Groups

Rabbi Shawn Israel Zevit

One unit in Kli Kodesh (elective)

This class will explore historic and current approaches to effective leadership and core elements in building sacred and healthy Jewish community, from a Jewish and spiritual values-centered approach. Topics will include in-reach and outreach, spiritual leadership styles and skills, governance and decision-making from systems perspective, human and financial resources. We will combine text and best practice study, small and large sharing of challenges and successes, creative and interactive exercises, as we deepen our understanding of the sacred bonds of congregational life, the challenges to it in our day and how we as spiritual leaders can become more effective agents for healthy change growth in the major areas of communal life. Participants will be expected to do preparatory readings, participate in a follow-up conference call and choose a project to write a paper for subsequent to the class.

Class Structure:

Each class will begin with a niggun, short meditation, or reading or poem on spiritual community. I would invite any participants who wish to offer this to contact me in advance and I will assign which days you will help us begin. This will be followed by a combination of text study, didactic presentation, interactive exercises and discussion. Gleanings will be part of the closing of each session.


1) Readings as assigned and in-class participation.

2) Each student will receive some on-line readings to help prepare and will be expected to keep a journal on a synagogue, havurah, care facility or Jewish organization of their choice in which they are active professionally or as a volunteer. There will be at least one conference call as part of this class during the fall of 2016. The class will form the basis for a double-spaced, 10-page paper of an assessment of the major areas of congregational/organizational life studied in the course, to be delivered by Thanksgiving of 2016.


Workshops & Modules

The following workshops will be offered once during the week for one-and-a-half hours (except for Rabbi Tirzah Firestone's workshops, which meet on Wednesday for 3 hours):

Monday, July 4 – 10:35 am to 12 pm


Rabbi Marcia Prager


Monday, July 4 – 2 to 3:25 pm


Rabbi Marcia Prager


Tuesday, July 5 – 10:35 am to 12 pm


Rabbi Jamie Korngold, the Adventure Rabbi, will take 10-mintues to share the story of her unique rabbinate and then open the floor for questions so that our time can be geared toward your interests. 

Rabbi Jamie is founder of the Adventure Rabbi Program, which offers an innovate synagogue community, outdoor retreats, and an online learning community reaching students all over the world. She is nationally recognized for her innovative work combining religion and nature, as well as for her much loved Sadie and Ori series, with over 400,000 books sold, published by Kar-Ben Publishing.  

For more information, please visit


Tuesday, July 5 – 2 to 3:25 pm


Rabbi Jack Gabriel, aka Reb Ya’acov

One of the great visual images in the rabbinic tradition is of a stranger asking Hillel to explain Judaism to him על רגל אחת standing on one foot. Sometimes that's an accurate visual portrayal of how we do Renewal Halachah:  we need to  come up with quick, yet grounded, interpretations  of new situations.  

In this case study workshop, I'll bring in examples of situations that have come up for me, when I was challenged to do  "Paskin-ing", rendering  judgements, על רגל אחת. We will discuss what I did and what I might have done.  

I invite you to bring us your own questions and experiences as well.  

There will  be medits (Mini-meditations), songs, and some processing. Fun is expected as well.  

Please come for the joy of it, ללמוד וללמד.

May we all learn to think  on our feet, as we saw our Rebbe Zalman z'l , do many times. 


Wednesday, July 6 – 9 am to 12 pm (3-hour workshop)


Rabbi Tirzah Firestone

Reading the pulse of a kahal and working with their energy to move people wherever they sit. How to incorporate poetry, Torah, great quotes, and your own voice. We will cover writing and delivery and examine why our words flop and fly.


Wednesday, July 6 – 2 to 5 pm (3-hour workshop)


Rabbi Tirzah Firestone

In the course of your career as a Jewish clergy you will sit with families at the morgue, in the ER, and on your doorstep. You may be required to bury friends, enemies, children, or suicides, settle disputes, show up in court, or  in the middle of the night. We will cover the crazy and the criminal, self-preservation, and when to say no. We will work on citing family dynamics and listening for cues to help families across the liminal moments of their lives.


Wednesday, July 6 – 10:35 am to 12 pm OR 2 pm to 3:25 pm


Morah Yehudis Fishman

The most disastrous event in Jewish history since the expulsion from Eden was the episode of the Golden calf described in the middle of the book of Exodus. Yet the Hasidic masters tell us that G-d “prepares the cure before the disease.” Thus we can find encoded in the six directives that precede the Golden Calf, a formula for creating a force field of both prevention and protection from the six-step experience that caused the fractured state we now find in the world. The formula is an elegant “wrap around” process of an awareness of the significance of each spatial direction, and its alignment with aspects of the tabernacle framed as a six-sided cube. These six directions also incorporate parallels with the six questions the soul is asked in heaven and the six orders of the Mishna. By immersing in sections of this profound text from Rabbi Yaacov of Ishbitz, you may leave with a virtual “safe-house” of spirituality that will be like your personal travelling tabernacle.


Thursday, July 7 – 10:35 am to 12 pm OR 2 to 3:25 pm


Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav

My deepest learning today is from elders and multifaith engagement. I am blessed to be doing both in the same work.

After 18 years as a rabbi, mostly in congregations, I left that work and entered the world of chaplaincy with elders. Expecting to find tired, unhappy, not all that interesting people, I was delighted to find I was completely wrong. Instead I found myself in a wisdom circle and in a circle of spiritual seekers and truth tellers. (Being older and not being wealthy materially seems to lead to a "no pretense" approach to life that I find delightful.) And since this community is half Jewish and half people from other faith traditions, it has led me to a practical deep ecumenism that continues to stoke my passions and growth as a rabbi.

So come explore with Reb Stephen the intersections of practical deep ecumanism and eldering work.  Relevant for people interested in both congregational work and other venues.


Friday, July 8 – 10:35 am to 12 pm


Rabbi Ori Har DiGennaro

If our tradition had kept sacred dance as a form of worship, what would it look like? From Torah we learn to continually be present to the gift of Life. Imagine flowing through the Four Worlds: listening to your body, allowing expression of your deepest yearning, tuning to the One hum of creation, and dancing your soul! Imagine waking up to the light in your body, and going on an inner exploration through movement. Imagine being so open hearted, so attuned to the divine flow; that your whole body becomes an integrated, body-mind-soul experience!

You need only a willingness to move in new ways, and to pray with your body. No background in dance is required.   Rabbi Ori Har-DiGennaro loves to embody Torah and she will lead us in this extraordinary experience.


Friday, July 8 – 2 to 3:25 pm

Authentic presence in one's self presentation

Rabbi Jack Gabriel, aka Reb Ya’acov

As a chaplain, cantor, maggid or spiritual leader, being present and real is   essential, but it's  often hard to be in that zone exactly when it's most needed.

Paradox, however, is the mother of invention. In this workshop, we'll explore ways to inspire us to "be  natural and real" in our professional and personal lives. With stories, shared experiences, humor, and a dash of music, we'll find  ways to lead from the heart, feel from the eyes, and teach from our well being.
I hope this description inspires you to create, with Reb Ya'acov/Rabbi Jack, successful ways of self expression and self presentation.


5-Day Modules:

Monday through Friday, 9 am to 10:25 am


Rabbi Steven Silvern

Emphasis will be on decoding and understanding the Baal Shem’s language—learning phrases and concepts.


Monday through Friday, 3:35 pm to 5 pm


Rabbi Steven Silvern

Reading competence is assumed. We will be looking at the text to analyze how the Baal Shem structured drishot. What is he bringing that is unique? How does he deal with language and concepts?