Meet Six New Spiritual Leaders – The ALEPH Ordination Program 2013 Graduating Class

Cantor Yossi Weintraub joins 2012 Musmachim entering Ordination Ceremony in Boulder Colorado, January 2012
Cantor Yossi Weintraub joins 2012 Musmachim entering Ordination Ceremony in Boulder Colorado, January 2012

Dear Friends,

We are deeply honored and humbly grateful to be the 2013 graduating class of the ALEPH Ordination Programs.  On Sunday, January 13, 2013, in Broomfield, Colorado, we will receive ordination from our mentors and teachers in the ALEPH Cantorial, Rabbinic and Rabbinic Pastor programs.

Throughout our individual journeys towards this day, the encouragement, inspiration, and love we have received from you, and from so many others, has been invaluable. We are grateful for the friendship and support you have shown us as we worked for years towards this momentous occasion.

The six of us want to mark this occasion by making a collective gift to the ALEPH Ordination Programs. This gift will support ALEPH in its continued training of cantors, rabbinic pastors, and rabbis.  Many of us have juggled complex family and job obligations during our years of study.  This collective gift is a way for us to “pay it forward,” supporting new students who are energized by Jewish Renewal, and who will keep growing and nurturing Renewal’s passionate, creative, open, mystical, and progressive approach to Judaism.

We invite you to mark this milestone in our lives by contributing a tax-deductible gift to ALEPH in our honor.  Please send a check payable to “ALEPH” and write “Ordination 2013” in the memo section of your check, and mail it to ALEPH,

7000 Lincoln Drive #B-2, Philadelphia, PA 19119.

Thank you for the support, kindness, and love you have shown us.  We are truly grateful.

Elyse Seidner-Joseph

For me, Judaism was weekly Shabbat dinners with the family and Grandma Esther teaching us “Modee Ani.”  I was one of that very rare breed—someone who liked Hebrew school!  That is, until the time we all turned 13, and were told that there was no place for the girls in religious leadership in the early 1970s of the suburban Conservative world.  I never really left, but focused on USY and social action.  In college, medical school and early in practice, there was no place for God.  Everything was explainable by science, until it wasn’t.   We did not have all the answers.

I went back to shul as a questioner, a seeker, a rabble rouser and a change maker.  I learned to read Torah at 40.   Our Conservative (!) rabbi suggested I go to something called “DLTI” which was nothing like what I expected, and that was a good thing!  That was 8 years ago…..I approach the day of our smicha with gratitude to God, communities, teachers and family.  May we all continue to grow in love and learning and serving God and all people with joy.

Patrice Spitz

My road to smicha has been circuitous and enriching.  I grew up in Queens, NY, in a Conservative Jewish home, but it wasn’t until after I was married that my spiritual journey began in earnest.  In my quest to serve others, I became a practitioner of alternative healing modalities.  Ultimately however, my path led me back home.  While studying world religions I rekindled my love for Judaism, joyfully rediscovering its spiritual depth and contemporary relevance.  Through the Aleph Ordination program, I had the opportunity to delve deeper with wise and inspiring teachers, and colleagues who have become cherished and trusted friends.    I am delighted to bring all that I have learned and all that I am to serve the Jewish people and the wider world.   In particular, I am truly grateful to walk my spiritual path with the members of Congregation Nevei Kodesh in Boulder as their Rabbinic Pastor.

Shulamit Wise Fairman

Born and raised in Mid-Missouri, my Jewish roots were nurtured by a loving, creative, and politically active cadre of close family friends, who helped to build and sustain our small Jewish community.  After delving into neo-pagan, feminist spirituality in my late teens, I turned to the question of whether there was a viable spiritual path in Judaism in my early twenties, and was blessed with a resounding, internal YES, and a deep desire to share all the gems I was discovering.  From Columbia, Missouri I moved to Boston, MA, where Rabbis Daniel and Hanna Tiferet Siegel took me under their wing, and with the B’nai Or community, grew me up Jewishly all over again.  While pursuing my Masters in Jewish Studies and a Certificate of Cantorial Arts at Hebrew College in Boston, I developed a free lance career as a Jewish educator, prayer leader, and ritual creatrix, which sustained me for 6 years.  Moving westward to the Bay Area of California almost 8 years ago, I began serving ALEPH affiliate Kehilla Community Synagogue as their Music Director and as a Spiritual Leader, alongside Rabbis David J. Cooper and Burt Jacobson. It is an extraordinary blessing to serve a radical, lefty, heart centered, Spirit-loving community who seeks, alongside me, to bridge tikun hanefesh, the healing of the soul, with tikun olam, the healing of our world.  As a student  in the ALEPH Cantorial program for the last four years, my life, and my life-work have been immeasurably enriched by the progressive, creative, depth-centric leaders and teachers in the Renewal movement and beyond, and by an exquisitely diverse and passionate cadre of student-colleagues.

Larissa Blechman

On an early visit to  to Elat Chayyim in NY Larissa Blechman woke up from a nap one Shabbat afternoon with an  life changing but confusing realization.   This Shabbat was at the end of one of the first weeks of the newly minted Kol Zimra program and the sound of chant and drum, drum and chant, had worked their way into my body and spirit and had helped this startling realization to work it’s way into my consciousness.   “I’m going to be a Rabbi” I realized as I awoke to the sound of the drumming and chanting from the yurt next door.   “No, not a Rabbi, I’m not going to be a Rabbi…..I’m going to be a______….. I’m going to be a something…..some kind of a clergy.”   A few years later, in 2006, I met the Aleph Jewish Renewal Seminary Va’ad members when I was in mishpacha group with them at Elat Chayyim,  and I learned what work and what ordination program had been calling me.  Aleph’s Rabbinic Pastor program!    I entered the Rabbinic Pastor ordination program in 2007 and began the formal educational path that would nurture the special and holy healer, soul accompanier and ritualist role that Aleph has created for those who are drawn to deep pastoral work.    I’m blessed to be able to continue my counseling and meditation work in this way Blessings will continue to rain upon me when I’m ordained a Rabbinic Pastor on January 13, 2013.

Sandra Wortzel

I grew up in NYC and have been a desert dweller in Tucson, AZ since 1975.  I have a BFA in Dance, and a MA and CAGS in Expressive Arts Therapy.  I have been an Expressive Arts Therapist, Educator, and Consultant since 1983, using all of the arts as therapy with individuals, families and groups.  I am completing my final year of training in the Aleph Rabbinic Pastoral Counseling ordination track, which I began in 2008.  In January 2012 I received smicha as a Mashpia Ruchanit, Jewish Spiritual Director.  Combining the Aleph Hashpa’ah Spiritual Direction training with Rabbinic Chaplaincy work has proven to be a perfect melding of two deeply profound ways in which to serve others on their spiritual journeys, whether in illness, healing or health.  I intend to integrate Expressive Arts with Hashpa’ah and chaplaincy, in private practice and community work.  I am extremely grateful for the support of my husband, family, friends, teachers, and my student colleagues on this path of personal and spiritual evolution

Hanalei Ableman Laner

I was born in Wilmington, Delaware and grew up on the east coast. Even though my great grandparents were the founders of an Orthodox synagogue, which was the first synagogue in Wilmington, my family was more culturally Jewish than spiritually Jewish.

I found synagogues fairly devoid of spirituality. G-d was in the love and hugs from the people in my family, but we didn’t speak about it in that way. In fact, we really didn’t speak about G-d. As a young girl, I connected to G-d in the woods and at “Marty’s Rocks” on the Brandywine River.

In 1977 I moved to Colorado to go to college. The natural beauty rekindled the connection to G-d that I had felt as a child.  As soon as I graduated, I went to Israel and lived on Kibbutz Degania Bet in the Galil. I began to blossom spiritually, and my connection to Judaism deepened.  My journey in the land awakened a song in my soul and ignited the Divine sparks of my calling to serve as a rabbi.

When I returned to Boulder, I helped to found and became one of the spiritual leaders of Havurah Gesher Ohr, later joining Havurah Tiferet. During this time, Reb Zalman became an influential force in our lives and helped us create a Jewish Renewal community in Boulder. The journey of my soul continued to unfold, leading me to serve as a Jewish educator for adults and children and as one of the spiritual leaders of Congregation Nevei Kodesh.

I am eternally grateful for the great love, wellspring of teaching, and phenomenal mentoring that I have received from Reb Zalman, and the depth of knowledge and spirit that all of my teachers, mentors, and members of the Vaad have shared and for the amazing support of my wonderful family, friends, and colleagues in our program.

I have been greatly blessed by HaShem, and I pray that my rabbinic path will bring many blessings, and that I will be able to reach out and touch the hearts and souls of many.