Seminary and Soul: Spiritual Education Without Walls for the 21st Century

by Rabbi David Evan Markus

In this article, the author reflects on the increase in part-time, trans-denominational and low-residency Jewish clergy ordination programs.  Citing first-hand observations and qualitative analysis, the author advocates acceleration of these trends to diversify the Jewish pulpit and meet the unique pastoral needs of 21st century Jews in the current era of weakening institutional affiliation.  To serve those needs with integrity and authenticity, the author also urges universal adoption of mandatory spiritual direction for all Jewish seminary students and instructors.

Jewish thought leaders have focused much attention on the October 2013 report of the Pew Research Center, A Portrait of Jewish Americans.  Among Pew’s core findings – and, not coincidentally, also a consistent refrain resounding from the core of many Jewish spiritual leaders – is an inchoate and unrequited longing.  Jewish community confronts the fast rise of the so-called “Nones” – non-Orthodox Jews, especially under age 40, who claim affiliation with “no religion” while embracing authentic spirituality in other forms.  While Jewish institutions ponder core questions of identity and strategic planning, clergy burnout has become an increasingly regular if muted topic in conventions and seminaries.  Meanwhile, denominational structures are shifting with underlying changes in the economics and sociology of Jewish institutional life.  As Robert Putnam observed in Bowling Alone, in progress now is an even broader and unprecedented decline in civic and associational participation, in which institutions of all kinds are becoming weaker and more porous.  Stated bluntly, walls behind which recent generations of Jews and Jewish clergy once found strength, stability and support – both literal walls of seminaries, and figurative walls of values and ideas – are shifting on their foundations.  We feel the shifts underneath our feet and in our kishkes: Pew told us what we already know.

In a sense, we’ve been here before.  The Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment of the 18th and 19th centuries, launched Jewry out of the shtetl and into the economic, academic and political mainstream of European life.  As barriers of geography, language and culture lowered, assimilation concerns swept through Jewish seminaries and congregations: Moses Mendelssohn’s grandchildren hardly looked back.  Each in their time, the Reform Movement, the Conservative Movement, the Reconstructionist Movement and Jewish Renewal arose as both response and contribution to this unceasing evolutionary flow of Jewish life.  While making a big splash in its moment, the 2013 Pew study was only the most recent indicator of changes continuously re-shaping North American Jewry.

The Pew study’s observations about disaffiliation and longing will become useless news, however, unless the means and methods of rabbinic education adapt accordingly.  As the literal and figurative walls of Jewish life continue to shift, the training of rabbis, cantors, rabbinic pastors and chaplains must follow suit.  Ideally, clergy education must leap ahead of the change unfolding across Jewish life, so subsequent cohorts of Jewish leaders can wisely shape that change rather than merely respond to it or race to catch up after falling behind.  The goal mustn’t be change for the sake of change, but to prepare the next generation of Jewish leaders to heed the essence of this generation’s unique call to spiritual service.

What is that call?  What is the hora’at sha’ah (lesson of this hour) for the education and spiritual formation of Jewish clergy?  Pew reminds that for an increasing percentage of non-Orthodox Jews, the search for meaning does not begin or end at synagogue.  In a fast-changing world, Jewish tradition continues to offer continuity and connection, but many 21st century Jews subjectively experience tradition in ways that can feel alienating or sterile.  Whether or not normative, they articulate their deepest and most pressing needs as less halachic than pastoral – navigating life changes, emotional dynamics, family dynamics and the like – in ways that deepen relationship with self, family, community and divinity.  As traditional ties to organized and especially denominational Judaism continue to weaken across the spectrum of non-Orthodox Jewry, our hora’at sha’ah is for Jewish leaders and clergy educational institutions to to meet the corresponding need for connection in both uniquely modern and authentically Jewish ways – and this, too, is not news.

Nor is it novel to observe that the organizing principles of most rabbinic education bear little direct relationship to this pastoral focus.  The resulting mismatch between rabbinic training and community need has been the butt of self-depricating jokes for decades: as Rabbi Harold Kushner put it, “When I graduated from Seminary, I knew all of the answers, but the problem was my congregants were asking the wrong questions.”  A 2011 spoof video by students at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, “So You Want to Go to Rabbinical School,” went viral on the Internet after lampooning the curricular focus on rabbinic law (“Do you know what to do if a non-kosher meatball falls into a pot of kosher meatballs?”) as distant from congregational life.

Before and since the 2013 Pew study, models for revitalizing community engagement and prescriptions for institutional evolution have proliferated one after the next, and many of them merit the focus of Jewish professionals seeking wise response to these dynamics.  Ultimately, however, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Precisely amidst today’s pace and uncertainty of change, clergy’s key roles remains what they always have been: to cultivate and nurture the soul.  Never more than today, the Jewish search for meaning is the heart song of the Jewish spirit.  If the next generation of Jewish leaders is to heed today’s call to service, then the spiritual formation of Jewish clergy – and teaching the ancient art of strengthening and uplifting the Jewish soul – must be top priorities for Jewish clergy education in the 21st century.

Part-Time Clergy Education as Spiritual Norm

The rise of the Academy for Jewish Religion (both New York and California), ALEPH and Hebrew College – rigorous clergy education programs outside the so-called mainstream of Jewish denominationalism – both reflects and advances these evolutions of modern Jewish life.  As denominations slowly relax their barriers to clergy employment and cross-pollinate each others’ practices and prayerbooks, mid-career and second-career adults increasingly undertake the journey toward spiritual service outside formal denominational structures.  At the same time, economic forces are rendering the opportunity cost of five or more years of full-time clergy education higher than ever.  For all of these reasons, and reflecting fast-changing technological advances shaping 21st century higher education, Jewish professionals increasingly receive training in independent, part-time and low-residency contexts.  As Uriel Heilman noted in his March 2014 article in JTA (“Who’s Leading the U.S. Rabbinical School Scene?”), Hebrew College ordained 15 rabbis in 2014, as many as the Jewish Theological Seminary.  ALEPH, the Jewish Renewal ordination program in which rabbinical students typically study for between six and ten years in a mix of semester courses and residential intensives, ordained 11 Jewish clergy in 2015.  Over the next generation, an estimated one-third of non-Orthodox Jewish clergy are likely to receive training outside the full-time context of brick-and-mortar denominational seminaries.

This development will continue democratizing and diversifying the Jewish pulpit, with far-reaching implications we are only starting to experience and understand.  While we cannot yet know the full impact of this paradigm shift in clergy education, already we can observe that among its most spiritually significant implications is that part-time clergy education is breaking down a wall between “seminary life,” on the one hand, and “real life,” on the other.  Clergy students who simultaneously work or raise families, and especially students in part-time and low-residency programs who do not live for years behind a seminary’s brick and mortar walls, can experience the whole world as their seminary.  For part-time clergy students, the Psalmist’s words shiviti Adonai l’negdi tamid – “I have placed God before me always” (Ps. 16:8) – take on especially poignant relief during their influential period of clergy spiritual formation.  Inhabiting secular and spiritual worlds simultaneously, part-time students experience within the milieu of their clergy education the inherent ratzo v’shov of spiritual life.  In the deepest sense, to part-time clergy students there is not a Jewish life and a separate secular life; one place for Talmud and another place for errands; a time for middot and a time for navigating rush-hour traffic.  Intense and transformational as all effective clergy education must be, the insulation and detachment that characterize the so-called “academy” simply do not apply to students in part-time contexts.

This energetic reality of part-time clergy education is important far beyond its potential to diversify the Jewish pulpit.  As Pew reminds us, the most pressing spiritual need of 21st century Jews and Jewish communities, both within and independent of congregationalism, is to deepen Jewish identity and spiritual meaning within secular contexts.  To use Hasidic nomenclature, modern Jews need guides for avodah b’gashmiyut – spiritual life and service within corporeal existence.  Increasingly, today’s Jews crave clergy who can journey with them through the highs and lows of lives actually lived, who know how to leverage spirituality in the hustle and bustle of commuting, while making ends meet amidst economic strife, through teenage rebellion, amidst the din of technology, and in the dislocation of divorce and disease.  As Rabbi David Ingber of New York City’s Romemu observed, today “[w]e need a Judaism with calluses on its hands and dirt under its fingernails.”  The Judaism this generation needs is not a pure and untouchable relic fit for a museum, but a Judaism as real, changing and scrappy as modern life itself.

While part-time clergy students may have a natural advantage in meeting this need because their seminary education tends to be more fully immersed in the practicalities of modern life, this valence of spiritual education can be available to all clergy students if seminary curricula and mindsets evolve accordingly.  As Rabbi Kushner’s joke instructs, “real life” must become the organizing principle of clerical education.  Simply put, every rabbi, cantor, rabbinic pastor and chaplain must become adept at navigating what Rabbi Irwin Kula termed the “sacred messiness” of 21st century life.  Seminary admissions, class schedules and educational finance must evolve to encourage and perhaps even preference seasoned students in their journeys toward ordination.  Likewise, the pedagogical methods of the Jewish seminary – spanning the breadth of liturgy, history, philosophy, pedagogy, Talmud and codes – must adapt to serve the spiritual goal of “real life” engagement.

This observation, too, is not new: rabbis of centuries past tended to be fully immersed in the stream of commerce and secular life.  Hillel was a woodchopper; Yochanan ben Zakkai was a businessman; Rav Huna was a farmer who raised cattle; Rav Chisda and Rav Pappa were brewers; Maimonides was a physician.  When our Talmudic antecedents held that we should “go out and see how the people are accustomed to act” (B.T. Berachot 45a, B.T. Eruvin 14b), it was because they themselves went into the marketplace and immersed themselves in the routine daily life of community.  Their “rabbinate” – a term unknown in those days – was coextensive with the entirety of life, and spiritualizing the practicalities of daily living was the keystone organizational principle of Jewish law and rabbinic identity.  Only in the 14th and 15th centuries did the payment of emoluments for rabbinic service, and thus the rabbinic “career,” begin to emerge as common practice: until then, for most rabbis, the rabbinate was a second or parallel calling.

As the economics and energetics of congregational life continue to shift, Jewish clergy invariably will accelerate their collective journey back to the future.  In increasing numbers, Jewish clergy will pursue ordination in part-time contexts, and serve congregations and communities in part-time engagements after or parallel to other careers.  These clergy can bring to their roles heightened maturity, real-life experience and more integrated engagement in the daily realia of their communities, with correspondingly heightened capacity to journey with their congregants through the peaks and valleys of their lives.  Like our Talmudic antecedents, their rabbinates will tend to identify with the busy marketplace of human affairs because these clergy themselves will be trained in that way.  Like God who heard the cry of Yishmael “from where he was” (Gen. 21:17), these new cohorts of Jewish clergy will be equipped to hear and respond to the cry of emerging Jewish generations precisely from where they are – for indeed, theirs will be much the same cry and from the same place.

Pastoral Education and Spiritual Direction: Pillars of Clergy Spiritual Formation

In whatever context and stream of Jewish tradition clergy pursue their training, serving the deep pastoral and spiritual interests of modern Jews requires that identification and authenticity become the dominant effectiveness measures of Jewish clergy in the 21st century.  Identification connotes not only demonstration of empathy but also perception by community and client that clergy infuse their empathy with the intuition of shared experience.  Authenticity means not only talking the talk but also walking the walk, engaging in both spiritual and secular life for oneself, transparently living amidst the “sacred messiness” with its wrestles and rewards.  Identification and authenticity, then, imply a third vital characteristic of effective Jewish clergy in the 21st century – deep integration of one’s own constantly evolving emotional and spiritual landscape.

In that spirit, perhaps the most vital approach to rightsizing clergy education to “real life” is not so much “practical rabbinics,” as the academy calls it, but a wholesale focus on pastoral education and spiritual direction.  In its essence, sound pastoral education cultivates far more than the practical skills of reflective listening and bedside manner – skills that absolutely can and must be taught and practiced.  As every CPE (clinical pastoral education) supervisor knows, effective pastoral education is about learning to deeply observe, transparently air and wisely process the emotional, psychological and spiritual dynamics arising within the clergy in each pastoral encounter.  Appreciating the importance of these skills, seminaries and curricular leaders increasingly require at least one CPE unit as a condition of ordination.

And yet, clergy continue to report that they feel unprepared for and overwhelmed by their pastoral responsibilities.  A 2014 qualitative study of rabbis affiliated with OHALAH, the trans-denominational association for Jewish Renewal, concluded that the top need that congregational and organizational rabbis reported in their work is more and better pastoral education.  Perhaps even more telling was that researchers heard this refrain almost regardless of which rabbinical school the study respondents attended.  Whether hailing from the Academy for Jewish Religion, ALEPH, Hebrew College, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Jewish Theological Seminary or the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, the common rabbinic refrain from the field is a desire for more pastoral education.  While the study’s relatively small sample size warrants more expansive analysis, these initial results sharpen the reflection of the 2013 Pew study: seminaries must make a high priority of training clergy for the pastoral circumstances where Jews increasingly find and make meaning in the 21st century.

More and better pastoral education courses, however, cannot alone prepare clergy to navigate these pastoral roles with maximum effectiveness.  By its nature, the pastoral role is a spiritual one, necessarily implicating the clergy’s own emotional, psychological and spiritual landscape.  Precisely because Jewish clergy are human – fellow seekers ideally living in the same world as their congregants – identification and authenticity require that clergy deeply engage in a constant refinement of self so they can be fully present and accessible to their congregants.  Frequent exposure to not only spiritual updrafts but also the suffering and strife that inhere in human life, must touch clergy if they truly bring open hearts to their pastoral and community roles.  Illness, conflict and death naturally trigger clergy’s own life experiences and narratives.  In moments of honesty, Jewish clergy must acknowledge their own wrestles with theodicy, their own longing and their own doubts.  These are not signs of weakness but characteristics of integrity and enduring strength.

While effective pastoral education builds professional skills to help clergy cope, coping is not enough if clergy are to be accessible and transformational in the deepest ways.  Clergy’s own experiences in pastoral encounters – and their corresponding valences of emotions and theology – inherently shape the spiritual effectiveness of clergy.  For that reason, all clergy must engage in deep, transparent and constant inner refinement.  By definition, this process cannot be only a solitary exercise: as Talmud teaches, “A prisoner cannot release oneself from prison” (B.T. Brachot 5b).  We all have blind spots, we all fall into ruts, and there is no reason – indeed, there is no spiritual legitimacy – for clergy to go it alone.

And yet, many veteran Jewish clergy report feeling exactly that – alone, or at least under-supported.  Isolation and loneliness are well-documented phenomena for Jewish and non-Jewish clergy alike.  The constancy of pastoral demands, the corresponding challenges to family life, and the distant cordiality that some clergy cultivate in their communities because they perceive their roles to require it, all combine to leave many clergy feeling isolated, overwhelmed and burned out.  Even for clergy who feel balanced and well adjusted in the pulpit or community life, emotional and spiritual needs can be palpable.

Against this backdrop, it remains surprising – and counter-productive to the cause of cultivating heart-centered clergy able to meet the pastoral and spiritual needs of 21st century Jewry – that spiritual direction remains so under-utilized among clergy students and ordained clergy.  As of 2015, ALEPH is the only Jewish seminary to require all students to be in regular and intense hashpa’ah (spiritual direction) for the duration of their studies and for at least six months after ordination.  Observes Rabbi Shohama Wiener, ALEPH Rosh Hashpa’ah (Head of Spiritual Direction and Development), “Hashpa’ah is our best modality for helping seminary students experience God in all aspects of their lives, and therefore better able to bring those they serve closer to a sacred Jewish path.”  In this way, the mission of hashpa’ah seeks to remove inner walls to spiritual experience and clergy spiritual formation.

Named for discerning and priming the flow of divinity (mashpia shefa) through the prism of an individual’s life experience, hashpa’ah traces to the centuries-old Hasidic custom in which a mashpia helps a student individualize and integrate the shiurim of the rebbe while coaching the student’s personal prayer practice and ethical development.  In the liberal streams of Jewish tradition, Jewish spiritual direction can help the individual ask and answer the question, “Where is God in” whatever is unfolding for the student, congregant or client.  Prayer, theology, middot, family dynamics, identity narratives and other facets bearing on emotional and spiritual life are natural inquiries for spiritual direction.  So, too, is the ratzo v’shov among spiritual and secular life: indeed, in spiritual direction there is no wall beyond which divine flow is presumed absent, or off limits for exploration and discernment.  The spaciousness, freedom, permission and safety of the spiritual direction relationship are precisely the point: the cultivation of truly integrated clergy requires that the process of clergy spiritual formation identify and transcend whatever inner walls past experience may have erected to the flow of spirituality within and through the student aspiring to spiritual service.

By regular (typically monthly) and confidential sessions with a mashpia(h), ALEPH students in mandatory spiritual direction learn how to make real in their own lived spirituality – and to help make real in the spirituality of their congregants and communities – the experience of inner intimacy with God.  It is through spiritual direction that ALEPH students integrate for themselves the deep wisdom of Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav’s teaching: “In working with people to bring them to themselves, one must work at great depth – a depth scarcely imaginable.”  After all, where clergy themselves do not go in their own emotional and spiritual realms, clergy cannot help bring anyone else.

In recent decades, several programs have trained Jewish spiritual directors to undertake this sacred role of witness, fellow journeyer and spiritual counselor.  ALEPH’s Hashpa’ah ordination program, the Yedidya Center’s Moreh Derekh and Hazon’s (previously Elat Chayyim’s) Lev Shomea – each somewhat different in its orientation and methodology – have cultivated a growing number of certified spiritual directors for the Jewish world.  In June 2015, Hebrew Union College launched its own initiative in spiritual direction.  In addition to these programs, the multi-faith organization Spiritual Directors International also is helping publicize and professionalize the role of spiritual director both within and beyond the Jewish tradition.  A growing library of volumes dedicated to the theory and practice of Jewish spiritual direction, and a growing library of testimonials about the transformational power of spiritual direction, offer extensive evidence of the vital role that spiritual direction can play in Jewish life.

Nevertheless, ALEPH remains the only Jewish seminary to require spiritual direction for all of its students and musmachim (ordinees).  As a tool of emotional and spiritual development, spiritual direction is proving indispensable to spiritual formation not only for the psychological, emotional and professional vitality of the individual clergy, but also as a higher-order living lesson about authenticity in spiritual life.  Everyone – including and especially a spiritual leader – is on his or her own spiritual journey: a rabbi who isn’t on his or her own spiritual journey might be of little use to another’s spiritual journey.  Some congregational expectations aside, no rabbi is free of challenge, doubt or trial; every rabbi needs a rabbi – and every rabbi needs a spiritual director.  What more important lessons could Jewish clergy learn during the pivotal years of clergy spiritual formation than that they are not alone, and that the path of holiness is a lifelong journey?  What better way to cultivate clergy who can navigate the pastoral challenges of 21st century life with authenticity, transparency, endurance and abiding strength than to accompany clergy and clergy students in that journey from the start of their call to spiritual service?  What better way to orient synagogue and Jewish community life toward hearing and uplifting the heart song of the Jewish spirit?

The high price of Jewish clergy students not being in spiritual direction became apparent to me starting in late 2010, when I participated in an inter-seminary shabbaton on social justice sponsored by CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.  Bringing together rabbinical students from a variety of seminaries, the CLAL retreat was my first experience living in community – albeit briefly – with colleagues from Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Orthodox and independent educational contexts.  After the retreat’s third day, when participants started letting their proverbial hair down, one of the facilitators invited students to discuss their greatest challenges in rabbinical school.  At first students predictably discussed workloads and learning the ropes of professional life, but soon several students began to cry.  Their deepest challenge, they confessed, was that they felt unsafe in their seminaries.  They felt unable to transparently share and work through theological wrestles, stress and other matters on their hearts.  They felt professionally shunned when they tried to discuss “spirituality” in school.  They had entered rabbinical school to find and serve God, but reported finding in their seminaries structures of power, emotional conformity and sterile theological dogma.  In essence, they reported finding inner walls embedded behind the brick and mortar walls of the seminary – not physical walls, but walls no less confining.  When they learned that ALEPH not only allows but even requires students to have spiritual direction relationships in which these matters are welcome and even obligatory to explore – these students professed wonder and a bit of jealousy.

Some of these experiences may reflect the inherent process of professionalization: as students and sociologists of law, medicine or other highly educated professions can attest, all professional education is about inculcating and internalizing professional norms, which can challenge and even break down assumptions, reaction patterns, narratives and identity.  The path of clergy is likewise – but it is ironic and unnecessary for clergy students to feel emotionally and spiritually alienated in their own rabbinic education.  That these sentiments arose among students from multiple seminaries across multiple streams of the Jewish tradition, among adults who appeared to be psychologically stable and fit for spiritual service, suggests a striking observation worthy of further inquiry.

Admittedly, no one data point is sufficient.  When I participated in the next cohort of Rabbis Without Borders, a year-long trans-seminary experience sponsored by CLAL, however, many of the same dynamics emerged.  Rabbis Without Borders “develops a network of rabbis with a shared vision to make Jewish wisdom available to anyone looking to enrich his or her life.  We provide rabbis and rabbinical students with cutting edge methodologies for addressing the challenges people face today.”  In my year learning with rabbinical students and educators from seminaries across the denominational spectrum, once again deep issues of spiritual safety and authenticity arose.  Students from a number of seminaries reported having nowhere to bring their unfolding theological and emotional reflections.  Several confessed to gleaning from their seminaries’ response to “spirituality” that theological wrestles are a sign of weakness, or perhaps disloyalty or even unfitness to the rabbinate.  Their unstated (and in a few cases, their expressly stated) conclusion was that denial or suppression is a normatively valid response to theological, emotional and spiritual challenge.  Despite what any well-intentioned seminary might intend, these students were learning to build internal walls to protect their hearts and minds from the very challenges they would encounter in their pulpits.  For Jewish clergy aspiring to pastoral effectiveness with authenticity in the 21st century, these are the absolutely wrong lessons to teach at exactly the wrong time.

These reflections by no means suggest that seminaries should drop from their curricula more intellectual subjects such as Talmud and halachic codes.  To the contrary, rabbinical fluency in the canons of Jewish legal tradition remains necessary for the same reasons as before.  They refract the socioeconomic and political history of the Jewish people; there is deep spiritual and theological value in both the pages and the process of halachic discourse; and their study refracts and extends Judaism’s inter-generational dialogue.  Changes in Jewish society and experience do not lightly invite wholesale abandonment of tradition: the future must be backwards compatible with our rich and proud past.  But, seminaries and clergy curricula also must be pragmatic and strategic.  Especially given the Pew Study’s clear gleanings that for most liberal Jews the most relevant rabbinate is the most effective pastoral rabbinate, the top rabbinic priority in the 21st century must shift to the pastoral and spiritual – even if achieving this priority requires scrambling the seminary schedule, revising the curriculum and reallocating faculty contact time.

For the sake of the psychological health of Jewish clergy, for the purpose of encouraging the spiritual formation of transparent and transformational pastoral professionals, for the sake of helping reach congregants no matter who and where they are, it is time that all Jewish seminaries mandate spiritual direction for all clergy students for the duration of their studies.  To that end, it also is necessary that all Jewish seminaries publicize to their students the availability of spiritual direction training programs, and perhaps develop effective spiritual direction training programs for themselves.  Only by adopting spiritual direction as a universal mandate, embedded in the mission and process of cultivating clergy, can Jewish seminaries bring into fruition the lived experience of God’s omnipresence.  Only then can seminaries make real the Psalmist’s call to keep God before us always – even and especially in times of doubt, uncertainty and pain.  Only then can we be fully real with ourselves, each other and our communities.  Only then will congregants feel invited to be fully real with us.

Naturally, what is right for clergy students is equally right (and perhaps even more important) for the teachers into whose hands clergy students commend their trust and souls.  As exemplars and educators, all seminary faculty must be in spiritual direction relationships of their own.  Faculty must take this chiyuv (obligation) onto themselves not only to serve as effective role models, but also to promote effective pedagogy.  As educational theorist Parker Palmer observed, inter-subjectivity is unavoidable (and even ideal) in teacher-student relationships.  Palmer’s observation is especially critical in the context of clergy education, which inherently concerns moral and spiritual development.  For these reasons, structured spiritual direction for seminary faculty is among the most effective ways to promote discernment of the teacher’s inner landscape and its impacts on the sacred task of cultivating clergy in their own moral and spiritual development.

Only by universal integration of spiritual direction into the fabric of Jewish clergy education – for students and teachers alike – can the Jewish world hope to meet the pastoral and spiritual challenges of the 21st century.  Only then can our collective journey beyond history’s walls – this time, walls restraining the flow of the indomitable Jewish spirit – take its next decisive step forward.

RabbiDavid Evan MarkusDavid Evan Markus serves as co-chair of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, co-rabbi of Temple Beth-El of City Island (New York, New York), and as spiritual direction faculty and adjunct rabbinics faculty of the ALEPH Ordination Program.  A longtime public servant, the author has served in all branches of New York government, on presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, and on the faculties of Fordham and Pace Universities.  In secular life, he presently presides as Judicial Referee in New York Supreme Court, Ninth Judicial District.  He received dual smicha (ordination) as rabbi and mashpia ruchani (spiritual director) from ALEPH.  He holds his J.D. from Harvard Law School, his M.P.P. from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and his B.A. from Williams College.  Contact David at