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ALEPH is Not Silent – It is Listening

ALEPH Listening Tour at Kehilla Friday & Saturday April 15 & 16

by Rabbi David J. Cooper

The Velveteen Rabbi aka Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Markus will be guest service leaders and teachers on the Shabbat of April 15 and 16—and they are not to be missed—but they, along with ALEPH Executive Director Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin, are coming to listen more than to lead. At Kehilla, they want to learn what local congregants of one of Jewish Renewal’s flagship communities can teach them about making the national Renewal movement even better.

Many Kehilla members are unaware that for more than 40 years Jewish Renewal has had an umbrella organization now called ALEPH. It has created and/or run important institutions: the national Kallah  gathering, the regional Ru’ach Ha’aretz retreats, OHALAH (the Jewish clergy organization), and the ALEPH Program which trains rabbis, cantors, chaplains and spiritual directors. Both Hazzan Shulamit and I are graduates.

The ALEPH Alliance has come to realize that as the Renewal Movement enters into a new generation, it needs to learn where it succeeds, where it fails, and how it should evolve to meet the changing needs of Jewish Renewal communities and individuals. At our Friday night service on the 15th, Rabbi David Markus will be teaching and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat will co-lead the Chai Shabbat the next morning. But their reason to be with us is actually our gathering after Kiddush on Saturday where we will have an open mic and discussion looking at such questions as:

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?

Rabbis Rachel and David write:

“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?

They invite your reflections either by coming at 1:30pm, April 16, or emailing them your answers, questions, gripes to Also check out their Listening Tour page at tour

You can find out more about the Listening Tour at Kehilla here.

To get a sense of how important ALEPH is to our community, see articles from Hazzan Shulamit and Rabbi Diane Elliot.

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