Faces of Renewal: Caryn Aviv

caryn-aviv-headshot-1An Interview With Caryn Aviv of Judaism Your Way


Why did you decide to pursue rabbinic ordination through ALEPH?

For many years, I taught sociology, Jewish Studies and Israel Studies in the university.  I started to wonder how else I could serve others in a broader way.  I wanted to have conversations about spirituality, meaning, Judaism, and activism, beyond the confines of a small community of college students and fellow scholars.  Becoming a rabbi seemed like a natural progression towards that yearning, and has been a deeply meaningful experience.  

How does Jewish Renewal influence you as a rabbi?

I love the hybridity and openness of Renewal.  I love how this spiritual approach draws on so many different traditions from within Judaism, and evolves in conversation with other spiritual traditions.  I love how Renewal serves as a lab to birth and diffuse new forms of Jewish expression.   

How does Renewal shape the way you make Judaism egalitarian?

My commitments to feminism & social justice inform everything I do and how I see the world.  These commitments are deeply valued and appreciated within the world of Renewal. The vision of Jewish Renewal & the inclusive vision of Judaism Your Way are reciprocal, complementary and synergistic.  That’s what enables me to bring what I learn from Renewal into my pastoral work & teaching with JYW participants.

How has Renewal shaped JYW’s programs?

As a Jewish incubator, I draw on so many of my Renewal colleagues’ work in our programs, in our High Holy Day Machzor, and in my thinking and practice.  My learning in the ALEPH smicha program has given me tools, ideas, and the courage to experiment in ways I might not have otherwise.    I so appreciate how Jewish Renewal teachers bring the wisdom and insights of Hasidut into the 21st century.  I see part of my work with JYW as serving as a translator for audiences who might not otherwise learn about these mystical traditions and teachings.  

What do you think is the ‘most awesomest’ part of Renewal?

Drawing on the legacy and memory of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (z’l) I think the world of Jewish Renewal is moving into an emerging paradigm shift with leaders who are thinking about the future. Judaism is a deep wellspring of inspiration in a rapidly changing, global world.   We need this wisdom desperately, given all the challenges that our planet faces now and in the coming decades.  I’m grateful to be part of this community.  


This interview is part of Faces of Renewal, an ongoing series of profiles of people who are renewing Judaism in our day.