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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Bet Alef is the only place that I've been that has made Judaism relevant and meaningful. Rather than race through a standard liturgy so we can say we've done it, each prayer's kavanah is established before it is entered. There is a period of silent meditation that is honestly meditated. And the music is filled with joy and beauty.
An incredible community - Rabbi Olivier is a gift. I found my home here. The Shabbat services are a deeply moving, spiritual experience. Torah Study is fascinating. We have fun together and care about one another.