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Thoughts on ALEPH

DianeElliotby Rabbi Diane Elliot

Members of Kehilla and other Jewish Renewal communities may not realize that their leaders are already part of a larger network: ALEPH Alliance for Jewish Renewal and OHALAH, the Renewal clergy organization. We Renewal rabbis, cantors, rabbinic pastors, and spiritual directors see one another regularly at annual conferences and retreats. There we discuss knotty spiritual and ethical questions, daven together, study together, sit together on the ALEPH and OHALAH boards, take political action together, and support one another personally.

It is this network that keeps us going as leaders, keeps us informed and inspired and in relationship with the larger Jewish and human world. In my experience, no spiritual leader can do the job of holding the people in their communities without this kind of a support network. How amazing it would be if community members, too, were conscious of and participated in these networks of support!

Through ALEPH communities, I found my way back into a Judaism that touched my heart and impassioned my spirit in the same way that my camp experiences growing up in the Reform movement had. ALEPH’s teachers ignited my thirst for Jewish learning, offering an approach to Judaism that had space for serious- meditator-me to sit quietly and also for ecstatic-dancer- me to let loose—all within a Jewish context.

Personally speaking, ALEPH, its teachers and programs, are responsible for the whole shape of my current life. I met Burt at an ALEPH Kallah in 2003 where were both faculty. At that time, I was already a rabbinical student, inspired to enter rabbinical training by my contact with ALEPH teachers. The core of my work now— delivering training in embodied Jewish spirituality to clergy, students, and lay leaders—is being supported and promoted by ALEPH as one of its in-house training programs.

The ALEPH Alliance for Jewish Renewal grew in support of the work of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l*, who, along with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z”l, planted the seeds for much of what we now know as Jewish Renewal. In the Bay Area, that means the Aquarian Minyan, Kehilla Community Synagogue, Chochmat Ha-Lev, Beyt Tikkun, and a number of havurot and other synagogues, which, though not necessarily identified with the Jewish Renewal movement, were founded or are served by rabbis and lay leaders who were trained by Reb Zalman and his students.

As I sit as adjunct to the ALEPH Board—where I have input into shaping the priorities and concerns of the ongoing process of Jewish Renewal—I have witnessed how Jewish Renewal has made its way into every denomination of Judaism, from Reform to Orthodox. We see Renewal’s influence in Hazon (food & the environment), Isabella Freedman/Elat Chayyim retreat center, Adamah and Urban Adamah, The Awakened Heart Jewish Meditation Programs, the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and in the seminaries of Reconstructionist, transdenominational, and even some Orthodox rabbinic schools.

The ALEPH Alliance has served as a hub for an amazing flowering of creative activity, scholarship, new music, and inspired leadership in the United States, Canada, and now, South America, Europe and Israel.

ALEPH’s programs are a life-changing, rich menu of learning and innovation: the Kallah and Ruach Ha’Aretz gatherings, Kol Zimra Chant Leaders Training, the Wisdom School, Sage-ing Mentorship, Ecstatic Meditation, Educating for Spirituality.

These clergy and lay training programs, offer a web of connection and support for those interested in a spiritual Judaism, an activist Judaism, a Judaism that leaps off the scrolls and pages of sacred texts and into the holy messiness of real peoples’ lives, connecting Jewish seekers to the richness of the past and fostering visions of a multi-generational, spiritually and socially alive future.

  • z”l = zichrono li-vracha = of blessed memory

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