A Listening Tour, Big Questions, and the Next Turning of Jewish Renewal

Dear Hevre of ALEPH and Jewish Renewal:

Among our first observations as ALEPH co-chairs was how much we – both the two of us in our ALEPH roles, and all of us collectively in community – don’t fully know about the future of Jewish Renewal and ALEPH now emerging.  In many ways, Renewal and ALEPH have grown and succeeded beyond their original visions, which is a gratifying testament to all we offer the world, and to the vision and skill of teachers and leaders who helped bring us to this moment.  Naturally, with growth and success come questions, new challenges and new opportunities.  We’re confident that together we will discern what the next wondrous turnings of Renewal and ALEPH might be, and how this future can evolve organically from all that’s come before.

In that spirit, we’ll spend our first year as co-chairs on an ALEPH/Renewal Listening Tour hearing from the breadth and depth of our community – people who are core parts of ALEPH now (many for far longer than us); to people connected to ALEPH communities; people who once were connected with ALEPH in some way but today travel in other circles; and people never connected with ALEPH but who are renewing Judaism in ways closely aligned in method, intention and heart.  Whatever our titles or institutional commitments, all of us who heed the call to renew Judaism are essential to this exciting future now unfolding.

Three Ways You Can Participate

One way for you to participate is by emailing us at chair@aleph.org.  If you have a story, perspective, observation, concern or complaint you want to offer us, we want to hear it.  What do you most cherish about Renewal that you hope the future will carry forward?  What would you jettison or change?  What new focus would you recommend in coming years?  Recognizing that Renewal is expanding beyond ALEPH alone, we especially welcome your observations about the following:

  • Innovation Space.  How can we cultivate a shared pan-Renewal “ecosystem” for continued spiritual and organizational innovation?  What are ideal preconditions for successful spiritual and organizational innovation, and how can we best maximize those conditions?  What do we most need to teach innovation to future leaders and seekers?
  • Renewal as Alliance.  How can we together steward this “ecosystem” without falling into competitive traps of zero-sum financial games?  Given that Renewal is a phenomenon far larger than ALEPH, should ALEPH aspire to make real its title (“Alliance for Jewish Renewal”)?  What should ALEPH’s role be in such an alliance – hub, umbrella, incubator or something else?
  • Strategic Strengths and Weaknesses.  What are ALEPH’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, and what specific recommendations for ALEPH and Renewal’s futures flow from them?
  • Not Knowing.  What question isn’t here that should be?  How would you answer it?

A second way to participate is to sit with us by video: we’re eager to hear from you in whatever form works, and we promise to be as accessible as circumstances and schedules allow.  If you wish to meet with us by video, please email chair@aleph.org with a brief summary of what you’d like to discuss, and we’ll do our very best to find a time.

A third way to participate is “live” at Listening Tour events that correspond with gatherings in West Chester, PA (Ruach Ha’Aretz, starting July 6, 2015) and outside Boulder, CO (OHALAH Conference, starting January 10, 2016).  Please register now for these important opportunities to share and help shape all that Renewal is and can be.

Listening Tour Hits the Road

We also will hold a series of Listening Tour shabbatonim in a variety of places around the country.  We want to (re)connect with the many spiritual children and grandchildren of our beloved Reb Zalman z”l, and with others who are doing the kind of holy work Reb Zalman would have celebrated. Gatherings will include large-group davvenen/learning and open-mike opportunities, as well as small focus group for visionaries, educators and other leaders within and beyond Renewal.  Listening Tour stops will be planned over the next year in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Boulder, Southern California and the Bay Area. Please stay tuned for news about this Listening Tour, and feel free to email us at chair@aleph.org if you have questions or comments.

Kallah 2016

After a year of listening, we’ll compile what we’ve learned and share it at the 2016 Kallah (Save the date: July 11-17, 2016, at the beautiful campus of Colorado State University, Fort Collins CO), which we aim to be an unprecedented Hilulah! (celebration) of Renewal’s past, present and future.  From our year of listening, we aim to offer comprehensive snapshots of where Renewal and ALEPH are now, hopes and dreams for the future, and ways to get there from here in partnership with others doing this holy work of renewing Judaism.  If all goes well, we might imagine this vision work following every seven years, with every Shmittah year, to model continuous innovation in sync with Jewish time.

Thank you for being a part of this amazing enterprise.  We’re humbled and honored to be working with and for you, and our doors and hearts are always open to you.

With blessings and gratitude,

Rachel and David
(Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Markus)

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal