I've had Ted Falcon as my rabbi for over 30 years, both in LA and in Seattle and now, since I live in Oregon, in my heart, with occasional visits in person. There has never been a better teacher in my life, a better influence or someone who has lighted my path to help me make better choices than he has. I've been a volunteer, a member of the choir, a "cheerleader" and a participant. Now, that Ted is an "Interfaith Amigo" and Rabbi Olivier has taken over the congregation of Bet Alef, I only know that it will continue with great energy and teachings for present and future congregants alike. It is a true story of community and excellent experience.
I was born in 1951. I came from a culturally Jewish background; the religious aspects of Judaism to which I had been exposed seemed form-bound, anachronistic, and lacking vitality. Since 1999 I have been oriented to the spiritual worldview of Integral philosophy, which is comprehensive, universal and demands coherence on many levels. I have found in Bet Alef a creative dedication to joyfuly including and expressing Judaism's tribal + scholarly + cultural + activist roots, and pushing into universal and mystical territory. What a find!! Bet Alef is an incredibly attractive and unusual package for Jews, and anyone, who needs a postmodern and mystical spiritual home with lots of rich tradition underneath. The people are great, too.
We moved to the area and we were searching for a community that fit with our sense of Judaism and community. We soon got connected with Bet Alef and began participating in the family Shabbat programs. We immediately felt welcome. Rabbi Olivier is warm and patient with the children (and adults!). The all let us participate and we became part of the community we were looking for.
This place is great! There is a very strong sense of community, which is enhanced by the meals after services. Oliver is a great Rabbi. He gives really interesting, funny talks and really makes Judaism enjoyable. I am one of the sutdents in his Bar/Bat Mitzvah class, and I'm glad that I am. The class lasts two years. During the first year, we learn how to read and chant Hebrew and learn about Jewish traditions and values. During the second year, we memorize all of the prayers for the ceremony and learn about Jewish history. It's really fun. Meditation goes very well with the services, it helps people get relaxed and in the right state of mind. It doesn't always work for everybody (after one service where we were instructed to imagine ourselves as waves crashing on the shore, I heard someone remark "I was imagining my head smashing agaisnt the rocks."), but it works for me. The synagogue is also kid-friendly, holding "Inter-generational family Shabbats" which are specifically geared towards kids. They are much shorter than normal services and involve more audience participation. All in all, involvement in Bet Alef is a very fun and spiritual experience, and I definately recommend it.
Our lives are so enriched because we are members of Bet Alef. We discovered Bet Alef in 2003 after moving to Seattle from Los Angeles and here we found a spiritual community unlike any other. Our Friday night services are moving, magical and inspiring and Saturday morning Torah class, which begins with an hour of silent meditation, not only teaches us about ourselves and our world, but has helped us deepen friendships and widen our community. Rabbi Ted, our founding rabbi, has brought new meaning for us as we practice Judaism. And Rabbi Olivier's love for learning and sharing - not only Judaism but all he is interested in - has given us new insights and helped us evolve as more complete human beings. You won't find a friendlier community of like-minded souls anywhere else on the planet!
I left my previous synagogue when I remarried. I had rarely attended. Rabbi Ted Falcon performed our ceremony in 2000 and we joined shortly thereafter. Six years ago, Rabbi blessed my Bar Mitzvah at age 56. My wife is Vietnamese and comes from a Buddhist tradition but loves our congregation and we never miss a Shabbat when we are in town. She has been warmly welcomed and we are truly part of a loving community. Starting as a cultural Jew with little training, I have found that the Jewish spiritual path, as iterated by Rabbi Ted and his home grown successor, Rabbi Olivier, resonates with me and has imbued my life with deeper meaning and intention, something I never thought would happen given my scientific, reductionist mindset. Finding Bet Alef has been one of the great blessings of my adult life.
I immigrated to US about 10 years ago. I grew up in Catholic Poland. As typical Pole I was raised Catholic, but as an adult I considered myself an atheist. In my late 30’s, when I was already living in the US, my mother gave me big news. She received a letter from Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, stating that she was born Jewish and that she was adopted as a child by a Polish family during World War II. That night I took a very close look at the shape of my nose in the mirror, but the news did not strike me. What difference does it make? Polish, American, or Jewish…I was still my usual me and my life was already difficult enough. One evening, a few years after my mother told me that I was Jewish, by pure chance; I was invited to visit Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue. The experience I had that evening at Bet Alef moved me deeply and initiated a significant change in me. Rabbis Ted’s and Olivier’s teachings incorporated into Judaism everything I was always looking for in religion: interfaith and its philosophy of tolerance to all human beings, soothing and healing meditation, counseling, intellectual stimulation, humor, rousing music, family life, and many opportunities for social interactions. Unexpectedly, I found warm, stimulating community, welcoming to all people and families including single parents with small children. I discovered that Bet Alef families gather each month in different homes to enjoy spending time together and to celebrate Jewish holidays. At Bet Alef I discovered my spirituality and I found my spiritual home. This synagogue will always have a very special place in my heart. I will always stay loyal to Bet Alef and I recommend this place to anyone that struggles with identity issues or is searching for spiritual awakening.
I truly couldn't be experiencing my Jewish lineage in any other space.... it blends my metaphysical upbringing with Eastern philosophy and Jewish mysticism. The congregation is an amazing group of people... the discourses presented by Rabbi Ted and Rabbi Olivier challenge the minds and spark the spirits of each in attendance. I am also thrilled to have a space for my young son to connect with his Jewish lineage in a way that is open and free
I have struggled with many things in my life. Judaism being one...addiction being another. When I woke up to the fact that the cure for my addiction was a spiritual life I became a seeker. I had turned my back on my Jewish roots many years before and felt there was nothing for me there. Through a series of events (serendipity) I found my way to Bet Alef. The meditation has been very healing and the Judaism sang to my soul.
The name represents what is unique about this synagogue. The rabbis (founding rabbi Ted and current rabbi Olivier) speak and work out of a place of true meditativeness; they do not simply speak about meditation or speak about Judaism. They rather have the ability to evoke the feeling of meditation within a Jewish context, providing an experience for the congregation. The excellent music program supports and enhances this process. I find that each service is like a journey through inner spaces; more involving and meaningful to me than what I experienced in other Jewish settings.
When I moved to Seattle over 3 years ago, one of the reasons I decided was because I knew that Bet Alef was there. I knew Rabbi Ted as a child and knew that there would be a supportive community for me. I wasn't disappointed. I love going to services and the Torah study classes are amazing. I've learned so much in the last few years and think I've grown as a Jew. Bet Alef is the synagogue for me. Also on a note, people who I've brought to services,both Jews and non-Jews have had amazing experiences. They found Bet Alef to be a warm, inviting community and found the services to be very meaningful.
I hadn't been to a synagogue in 30 years when a friend insisted I had to join her at services at Bet Alef. I have tried to never miss a Shabbat service since then, 5 years ago. The message at Bet Alef is inclusive and medititative. It speaks to my heart. Not only the messages of the wonderful Rabbis, but the welcoming friends one can immediately connect with make this my community! I love the diversity and open-heartedness of the community and the very personal touch of Rabbi Olivier BenHaim as well as the message and meditations of Rabbi Ted Falcon who drew me in at my first service.
When I first walked into a Bet Alef Friday night service, it felt like I had come Home. I had always wanted to feel more connected to my Jewishness in a deeper way, and in the almost nine years that I have been attending Bet Alef, this has become possible for me. I love the beauty and joy in our songs. Belonging to Tiferet was a wonderful experience for me, I miss that very much. I don't know if it is possible to have another singing group, but it was great to have the reunion during the High Holidays. I would like to have a tighter knit community. I appreciate the outreach when I was in a dire time of need.
We are an interfaith couple - My husband, the non-Jewish element, feels that the synagogue is very inclusive. Also, it is important that a rabbi be willing to thoroughly explore questions about Judaism without feeling threatened. Rabbis at Bet Alef make us feel comfortable with our level of knowledge. The spirit is as important as the doctrine there.
As a "recovering Catholic," for over 30 years I had been longing for an entree into Judaism. The first time I attended a service at Bet Alef, I knew I was home. The teachings, the music, the inclusiveness, the warmth of the community have fed my soul as no other religious experience ever has. I will be forever grateful to Rabbi Ted for welcoming me into the Tribe, and to Rabbi Olivier for his luminous spirit and love of the way of Torah.
I came to Bet Alef 13 years ago, after my Orthodox husband had died, and I came out as a gay woman late in life. My first service was Rosh Hoshana in 1996, and I left in tears, feeling that I'd finally found the place of spirituality I'd been looking for all my life. Rabbi Ted was a wonder, supportive of all, a great teacher, and a compassionate "every man!" Now upon his retirement, we are so blessed to have someone like Olivier leading us to our next level. He shares Ted's love of knowledge, wonderful sense of humor, and I'm so impressed with him as a teacher. We are truly twice blessed to have such leaders in our community. We truly are a synagogue for all people!
Who knew that a Craigslist job would lead me to my spiritual home? I first learned about Bet Alef when applying for the admin job, and it seemed a dream come true when I found a community that allowed me to explore my Jewish heritage. The experience has been more than I ever expected. Working in the office has given me a lot of insight into the work and passion it takes to make this community come together, and I have an immense respect and appreciation for each and every person who makes this congregation what it is, not the least of all Rabbi Ted and Rabbi Olivier. I am delighted to be here and be able to support the community as Rabbi Olivier leads the Bet Alef into new and wonderful places. I look forward to Rabbi Olivier officiating my wedding and starting a family in this community. Having grown up with very spiritual roots, finding Bet Alef has been the way for me explore and embrace my Jewish heritage in a deeply personal that has already changed my life for the better.
Bet Alef is an extraordinary spiritual, inclusive community that is firmly rooted in the Jewish tradition. And yet it is so much more than that. The first time I attended a service at Bet Alef, I found myself in tears--I was deeply moved and stunned to realize that I could have found a spiritual community to be my home. Though my spirituality is quite deep, my love of all the world's religions had led me to believe it would be difficult to find a single non-New-Age religious community for a home. I am the daughter of a Jewish mother and Christian father -- but mostly raised admidst Christian teachings. I was troubled at an early age by the exclusivity of the standard Christian message (be "saved" or go to hell). On the other hand, I was also troubled by the message of Jewish exclusivity (Jews being the "chosen people"). Enter 2002 and my encounter with Bet Alef--a community that teaches that Jews are "chosen" to follow the path of Torah -- not as people who are more important than other peoples. The Torah teaches Oneness -- an authentically JEWISH message that is ripe not only for Jews -- but non-Jews alike. The teachings at Bet Alef are vital, authentic, healing, and profound in this age of extremism, separation, and alienation. Is it any wonder, then, that so many people who have been raised as Christians are drawn so deeply to the teachings of Bet Alef?
We started with Bet Alef for Bar Mitzvah prep for our sons after a horrible ezxperience elsewhere. olivier is simply a wonderful caring man who takes each kid for where they are, while also challenging them to reach out or their comfort zone.
Although having been raised Jewish, there was little observance in my home. I had not attended synagogue for many years except when I joined one so my son could be Bar Mitzvah. I was studying Buddhism when I met Rabbi Ted and was blown away by the idea of having an active spiritual life in a Jewish context -- something I had never encountered before. When I checked it out I discovered that the Rabbi taught the Torah as a living, relevant source of lessons for life. What a concept! I've been coming ever since.