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.
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!