As you know by now, Kehilla is a Jewish Renewal community affiliated with ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. One of the most important ways that ALEPH has served the international Renewal community since 1985 is through the ALEPH Kallah, and so I thought I might write something in this issue of Kol Kehilla about the Kallah, hoping to tantalize readers into considering attending this remarkable event.
What is the Kallah? Every other summer, 700 or 800 eager participants gather on a college campus for in-depth study, davening (praying), singing, dancing, socializing and pure fun. Having attended five or six kallot, I can testify to the excitement and transformative power of these gatherings. Each kallah has something like 60 classes for attendees to choose from. Learning at the kallah is a terrific experience for both teachers and students.
Five years ago, the kallah was held at the University of Redlands in southern California. Almost the entire Kehilla Bima Team (the folks that lead High Holy Days and Chai Shabbats) went to Redlands and together we conducted a Kehilla Shabbat morning service. It was exhilarating sharing Kehilla’s way of praying together with our music with a large number of enthusiastic people from all over the United States and the world.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt is one of the co-chairs of the ALEPH Board of Trustees. Some of you were present at the Chai Shabbat this past month in which she participated. Here’s a description written by Rabbi Rachel of an evening gathering that took place at the beginning of a recent kallah:
Rabbi David Ingber has chosen to frame the opening plenary as a Hasidic-style tisch, a table gathering in which the rebbe’s teaching is framed with niggunim and melodies. After a beautiful ma’ariv (evening prayer) service led sweetly by Rabbi Jack Gabriel and a bevy of musicians, we fill the stage in the big tent with musicians of our own and we sing a [Hasidic] niggun.
There is drumming . . . there is guitar, there is piano, there is clarinet—and there is a tent full of several hundred happy people singing. Soon there is spontaneous dancing. It is amazing. It feels like a tent revival. A happy, hippie, neo-Hasidic, egalitarian, feminist, queer-friendly tent revival . . .
I share poetry and musings. Rabbi Riqi Kosovske shares a classical nursing prayer. Rabbi Ebn Leader sings “Memaleh kol almin, u-sovev kol almin” – “You fill all worlds and surround all worlds, and without You there is no existence at all”—so soulfully that I get shivers.
In between our teachings, we sing niggunim to seal the learning into our hearts. And we sing a Shaker hymn, which goes like this:
When you love-not one another in daily communion,
how can you love God whom you have never seen? (2x)
More love (2x)
The heavens are calling
the angels are singing
O Zion, more love, more love.
To close, Rabbi David Ingber tells an extraordinary story about why there is a tiny Aleph in the first word of the book of Vayikra/Leviticus: that after Moshe built the mishkan, the tabernacle, he stood outside it and wondered, is there a place here for me? I did all this work, I made this thing, but do I belong here? And God whispered so that only he could hear: Come on in, Moshe. There’s room for you. What a metaphor for us here in the big tent of Jewish Renewal. Come on in. There’s room here for you.
This coming summer, the Kallah will be taking place at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, from July 11-17. If you are interested in finding out more about the event go to https://aleph.org/kallah. Biographies of some of the teachers can be found at https://aleph.org/aleph-kallah-2016-classes.
I would like to plan an evening in the Fall when attendees of the Kallah from Kehilla will be able to share their experiences with other members of the community, so please let me know if you are planning on going to the Kallah. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.