I have been involved with ALEPH since its very beginnings, and have been continuously impressed with its ability to reach out to all sorts of people seeking more knowledge about Judaism in a modern, multi-cultural world.
Again and again, I have made connections for myself and my family that have extended our participation in a Judaism that is expansive and inclusive in every way. I know that our Jewish family which embraces both modern Orthodox and Catholic members would not be the group we are, celebrating each others' commitment and spirituality, without the ALEPH publications, events and people.
The collection and putting together of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi's work is an incredably importsnt preservation of materials that were mostly lost in the Holocaust. The combining of Reb Zalman's work with that of young scholars of very varying Jewish backgrounds has provided us with an incomparable legacy to carry us into the future.
I had a conservative Jewish education, but except for the music, felt unfulfilled spiritually by Jewish practice until I found Jewish Renewal 30 years ago. Reb Zalman's attitude that one could be a Jewish practitioner of generic religion was a perfect fit for me. Aleph has given me the opportunity to explore, with fellow spiritual travelers (my "rebbe chaverim"), the growing edges of Jewish music, ritual, art, and prayer without fear of condemnation. By now many of my friends have become the rabbis and cantors of the next generation of Judaism. My teenage daughter naturally considers herself a "renewal Jew."
I first learned about Jewish Renewal in the mid 1980s. At the time, ALEPH was a small office in the home of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, producing exciting learning events and conferences and promoting his books. Since then, the organization has grown to include a trans-denominational seminary that is now the largest non-orthodox Rabbinical School in the world. Jews of many different orientations meet and study at the bi-annual Kallah. ALEPH leads the international Jewish community in creative responses to such religious issues as LGBT inclusion, the extended human life span, and climate change.
Aleph is an opening to a world of Jewish connection, intimate and profound. Your relationship to Holiness to Judaism, to a lifelong practice of Chesed (Loving Kindness) and Tzedakah (Justice) and to Tikkun Olam, (Mending of a Torn World) all will be enhanced through this organization. I have been involved and attended Aleph programs for over 25 years, before they were officially Aleph. Check them out, get involved, you will never regret the encounters.
In 1990 I was locked into a lifelong Conservative experience. Being made aware of, becoming part of and allowing what Renewal had to offer what like my breaking free in my Jewish and spiritual life. I won't miss this Kallah on June 30 at the University of Redlands.
I first experienced the Jewish Renewal perspective over a Shabbat weekend with Reb Zalman in the late 1970's. It opened me back up to my Judaism and started me on a journey of spiritual exploration within Judaism that has lead me to being active with Aleph. This is connection with my spiritual roots that run deeper and wider than any other I have experienced. Being at an Aleph gathering truly brings me to a place of joy and learning like no other in contemporary Jewish America.
As a young person who wandered away from Judaism looking for spiritual experience, it was Aleph and Reb Zalman who showed me it was all in Judaism, in deep and real ways. Thus my life changed and led me to the path I currently trod.
Raised in a Socialism Atheistic household in Brooklyn, my Jewish connection was cultural. When my marriage was breaking up and I sought help American Indian spiritual advisor friend Grehalva Grey Wolf told me "you're Jewish. You need to talk to a Rabbi". This sent me on a quest for my authentic Jewish roots. When I found Reb Zalman and Jewish Renewal about 27 years ago it was the beginning of the foundation of "home" in Judiasm. I was welcomed where I was and offered a large and varied plate to explore. While I appreciate wisdom in all Spiritual traditions I know where my roots are and delight in the teachings.
Aleph and all the renewal movement opens my soul. A place to dance, sing, shake and be with nature in a way that no other place can open that soul space for me. The various leaders and Rabbi who have explored subjects that make you sit aat the edge of your seat....
Finally, an organisation that wants to bring the joy back into Judaism! When I'm in Aleph circles, I feel guilt-free and invited to be creative. There is a deep sense of the love of the Jewish people, the honour of the customs with the openness of outside influence and the re-discovery of internal beauty of our tradition. Praying in Aleph communities can be full of laughter, movement, meditation, soul-sharing or all of the above!
I attended this year's Kallah, since it was in Ohio. The Renewal congregation here is terrific: the Rabbi is intelligent and the members are my age. But I digress. I had to tell you about the Kallah. It was unbelievable, chock full of things to do and opportunities to participate, too. But the one thing I want to tell about is their handling of the "disability" issue. I, being disabled, wanted to participate in everything. And, I couldn't without a maximum expenditure of energy. The events were all over; the buildings were not accessible; and the transportation was not coordinated. What I want to say, is that it was faced up to like a mensch. They admitted their faults and offered me whatever I needed. They also offered me the next year's planning! I think, though late, they stepped up to the plate!
I have been involved with Aleph for 20 years as a volunteer, student, and teacher. I am a rabbi ordained by a more main stream seminary, but I have identified for a long time with Jewish Renewal. Aleph has enriched by personal, spiritual, and professional life. I have attended 8 Kallot and every conference of OHALAH, the organization of Renewal rabbis, as well as local groups. I have organized several email discussion groups with and for Aleph.
As an Aleph ordained Rabbinic Pastor (Shlicha D'Rabbanan) it is clear to me that my life would have taken a far, far drearier path had it not been for Aleph. Aleph provides for and supports the growth and existence of perhaps the most vibrant and alive genuine alternative to American denominational spiritual Judaism.
ALEPH has played a key role in my Jewish development since 2000. The people are a mix of, on the religious spectrum, those who could be labelled 'fundamentalist' & 'secularist'. But primarily liberal religion & progressive in critical respects such as gender equality, broad inclusivity Similarly, political views range from anti-Zionist to 'far right' religious nationalists. It is a society, an environment encouraging us to see who we can be as JEws.
Aleph and the entire Jewish Renewal world has changed by life in so many ways. Our community, P'nai Or (Faces of Life) of Portland was created around our beloved Reb Aryeh Hirschfield of blessed memory. Since his unexpected and untimely death this past January, the community has come together in unbelievable ways and has shown that it did not exist merely because of the presence of one man. I have also experienced the teachings of many other Renewal leaders at Aleph sponsored events and independently and have always found that the experience deepened my understanding of myself and the Divine.
I had already been working as a cantorial soloist for several years before I entered the cantorial program through the Alliance for Jewish Rnewal (Aleph). Aleph has changed my life profoundly--as it is surely changing the practice of Judaism profoundly across all the Jewish denominations. Friday Night Live, Blue tzitzit, colorful tallitot, Jewish meditation, "Torah yoga", use of drums, dancing, and niggunim-chanting during services...all these things and more have trickled out into all the liberal movements, and they all began with Aleph, under the revolutionary and inspiring teachings of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbi Marcia Prager and many more visionary teachers. Unlike the other big movements, however, Aleph does not have a well-endowed infrastucture, and so is always in need of funding. It is essential to the future vitality of the practice of liberal Judaism (and perhaps even Orthodox Judaism, as they are not above borrowing from us too, if it works!) that Aleph receive the funds that they need to keep producing this stream of "living waters" that will renew Judaism as a spiritual and ritual practice!
ALEPH is a wonderful force for helping people discover joy, spirituality, wholeness and depth in Judaism. ALEPH has helped me to connect much more deeply as a Jew. The professors that I studied with in the seminary were inspiring. My experience of the annual conferences we have in Boulder CO are some of the most wonderful experiences I have in my life. I believe ALEPH brings astounding people and astounding energy to the practice of Judaism today. I will be going to Israel on an ALEPH-sponsored trip at the end of March and can't wait to share Israel with the people that will be going with us.
The Aleph Rabbinical Seminary has enabled me to become a Rabbi. I have never met a more committed group of people, who have one foot squarely in the many linages of tradition and the other pushing at the edges of possibility. Our virtual campus allows students from all over the globe to come together in study; both the teachers and the students are highly motivated, and they bring to the that study a high level of energy and eagerness for the learning. While we all share the same foundational coursework, each one of us becomes a different kind of Rabbi. In my opinion, and as I compare my training with students in other rabbinic seminaries, this facet of the Aleph Seminary surpasses the other rabbincal programs. I am so blessed.
I first encountered the impact of Aleph in my local spiritual growth chavura. The leaders of that group would come back from Kallah, the Aleph summer gathering with so much renewed energy and ideas, teachings and insights to share with the rest of us. But, I truly did not understand the organization until I applied to its rabbinic program. The whole thoughtful way the application process is conducted, with students required to come meet the community of teachers and students, the way that collegiality is encouraged and the deep, deep commitment to social justice and peace in a spiritually fulfilling, gentle fashion,have made me continually thrilled to be a part of this Jewish renewal organization. The teachers are rigorous and encouraging at the same time. The Kallah, which is open to all has an amazing array of choices of classes and services. I attended a workshop on Praise that opened up my heart in new ways. I learned about Sephardic prayer customs in a Saturday morning service. And I met people who ere as serious and as joyful about the study and practice of Judaism as I am.
Aleph is a wonderful organization, that has truly advanced so many important issues in the Jewish world. From eco-kashrut and sacred foods to deep spirituality to interfaith work to ageing and so much more, Aleph has really pushed the boundaries of what it means to be Jewish in today's world. Aleph teachers are phenomenal, classes and workshops are inspiring and transformational - Aleph promotes a living, breathing, evolving Judaism for the heart, mind, body, and soul. Visit www.aleph.org for more info about this great organization!