An Update on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour

Dear hevre,

It’s been a while since we’ve shared with you about the Listening Tour we’re doing over the course of our first year as co-chairs of ALEPH, and we wanted to update you on what we’re doing and how it’s going.

The ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour arose out of a desire to learn more about who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. Our intention is to hear from the breadth and depth of our community – from people who are core parts of ALEPH now; 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.

The short version of “how it’s going” is: so far, it’s been fantastic. We’ve held Listening Tour stops so far in New York, at Ruach ha’Aretz, and in Boston. Each time, we come away more delighted at all that ALEPH and Jewish Renewal have been — and all that you (and we) collectively hope we can become. We’ve also done a bunch of asynchronous listening — via emails, phone calls, and videoconferences — and we’ll continue doing that all year long.

Where we’re headed: State of Renewal Report, summer 2016

By the time of the summer 2016 Kallah (July 11-17 in Fort Collins, Colorado!), we intend to be able to share a report on the State of Jewish Renewal: who and where we are, where we’ve come from, and where we think this amazing and ever-changing enterprise of Jewish Renewal is headed in years to come.

Listening Tour Questions

Everywhere we go, we’re bringing the set of questions we posed at the beginning of this endeavor. 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?

We’re also asking a set of questions about cultivating an ecosystem for continued spiritual and organizational innovation, what it might mean for ALEPH to be an “alliance,” ALEPH’s strategic strengths and weaknesses, and — maybe most importantly — what’s the question we haven’t asked, and how would you answer it. (You can read those questions in full on our Listening Tour webpage.)

Three Ways to Participate

One way to participate is by emailing the co-chairs at If you have a story, perspective, observation, concern or complaint you want to offer, we want to hear it.

A second way to participate is to sit with the co-chairs by video.  If you wish to meet by video, please email 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. (There’s a list of locations and dates in the image header at the top of the Listening Tour webpage.)

Listening Tour Weekends

At each Listening Tour site visit, we typically include the following events in partnership with sponsoring congregations and communities:

  • Renewal-style Kabbalat Shabbat
  • Dinner for a curated small group of visionary leaders, teachers and thinkers
  • Shabbat morning services
  • A large-group “open mike” session where we can harvest the hopes and dreams of the broader local Jewish Renewal community
  • Small-group curated discussion about the future of Judaism, Renewal and ALEPH (not always the same!)
  • Small-group curated discussion about tachlis (practical next steps) and opportunities going forward.

Curated Small Groups

In each community, we evolve a curated group of 10-15 visionary teachers, leaders and thinkers who together are diverse and engaging.  Some are “within” ALEPH / Jewish Renewal, and others come from outside the self-identified Jewish Renewal community. All are interested in the future of Jewish life generally and heart-centered innovation particularly, and all are leaders who have a stake in what ALEPH and Renewal are and become.

Our curated small groups thus far have included some truly wonderful rabbis, artists, scholars, thinkers, and teachers, including Maggid Yitzhak Buxbaum, Rabbi Jeff Fox (the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Mahara”t), Rabbi Jay Michaelson, Amichai Lau-Lavie (of Lab/Shul), Maggid Peninnah Schram, Rabbi Art Green from Hebrew College, Rabbi Jill Hammer from the Academy for Jewish Religion, and Joel Segel who with Reb Zalman z”l co-authored Jewish With Feeling and Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer, among others.

Listening Tour Co-Sponsors

Our New York weekend was co-hosted by Romemu and by Yeshivat Mahara”t, the groundbreaking seminary ordaining Orthodox women to serve as kli kodesh. Our Boston weekend was co-hosted by transdenominational seminary Hebrew College,  by B’nai Or, and by Mayyim Hayyim. Our Philadelphia weekend will be co-hosted by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, P’nai Or, and Mishkan Shalom.

(Stay tuned for information about the institutions hosting / co-sponsoring our future visits.)


We are deeply grateful to the donors who are making this Listening Tour possible, among them

Binah Block
Judith Dack
Rabbi Evan Krame
Susan Raskin

If you are interested in being a fiscal sponsor for part of the listening tour, contact Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin at

Our commitment to you

We have made a commitment to a year of receptive listening, a practice which is familiar to both of us from the pastoral work we do in our rabbinates. Our job is to be open and to receive what people have to say — the things we’re happy to hear, and also the things we may not be thrilled to hear — about Jewish Renewal in general and ALEPH in particular. And our job is also to connect that conversation with a broader conversation about the future of Judaism in decades to come.

It seems likely to us that the future of Judaism won’t have the same top-down, denominational shape that’s become familiar to us over the last century. We think that the future of Judaism is going to be co-created by a variety of people and institutions working together — not a hierarchy, but a network. We hope that the future of Judaism will be characterized by the kind of meaningful innovation which has been a hallmark of Jewish Renewal from the beginning — and we want to partner with others who are engaging in that kind of work. The Listening Tour is both an opportunity to hear from our constituency about what they want from Jewish Renewal, and a step toward bringing together some of the people and institutions doing the work of renewing Judaism across the board so that we can brainstorm together about what we want our Jewish future to be.

We welcome your participation in any way that works for you. Our next stop is Philadelphia over the October 31 weekend. We’ll have Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday night at Mishkan Shalom. On Saturday morning we’ll be at P’nai Or, where the plan calls for Torah study at 9:15am and davenen at 10:30. There will be a 1pm lunch and a 2pm open mike session at P’nai Or where we will harvest hopes, dreams, and feedback from the community. If you’re in the area, have an investment in the future of ALEPH and/or Jewish Renewal, and have an interest in adding your voice to the chorus, we hope you’ll join us.

Thank you for being part of this amazing adventure.

Blessings to all,


Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Evan Markus
co-chairs, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal