Judaism is evolving and renewing itself in fascinating new ways. A recent series of panels, featured during ALEPH’s recent virtual board meeting, July 12-14, 2020, highlighted changes coming to Judaism in three key areas: the environment, ritual, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Segments of the greater ALEPH hevra were invited to the hour-long sessions, which were recorded. Together, the panelists revealed a glimpse of the emerging Jewish landscape, and showcased some of today’s Jewish visionaries and leaders. The result was an exciting and fortifying series of events.
The first panel, “Renewing Jewish Earth Connections,” was moderated by Rabbi Natan Margalit, Ph.D., founder of Organic Torah and faculty of the ALEPH Ordinations Program (AOP). The panel featured Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, founder and CEO of Dayenu, founded “to secure a livable and sustainable world for all people for generations to come by building a multi-generational Jewish movement that confronts the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action,” according to its website. Rosenn, who has twice been named one of the Forward’s 50 most influential Jews in America, previously served as vice president for community engagement at HIAS, as well as director of the Jewish Life and Values Program at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, where she built the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable and the Selah Leadership Training Program.
The second panelist was Shani Mink, co-founder and executive director of the Jewish Farmer Network, which supports the economic, social, and cultural vibrancy of Jewish agriculture by connecting Jewish farmers to resources and community around the world. Mink has studied at the Arava Institute in Israel, worked as a farmer educator at Eden Village Camp, and participated in the Adamah Fellowship, as well as the JOFEE Fellowship.
Finally, Shamu Sadeh, managing director of education at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, CT, rounded out the panel. Sadeh co-founded and served as director of Adamah, where he currently mentors Adamah Fellows. Adamah is a fellowship program at Isabella Freedman that allows workers to immerse themselves in farming and spirituality. “The program’s alumni have invented some of the most influential institutions in Jewish food, farming and sustainability,” according to a recent New York Times mention.
The second panel, “Renewing Ritual in Judaism,” was moderated by Kohenet Keshira haLev Fife, who heads ALEPH’s Kesher Jewish Leadership Fellows. The panelists were Rabbi Jill Hammer, Shira Klein, and Naomi Less.
Rabbi Jill Hammer, who holds a doctorate from the University of Connecticut and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, is an author, educator, midrashist and ritualist. She is the co-founder of the Kohenet Institute, and the Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion. The Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute is a program in spiritual leadership for Jewish women. As a leader of the Kohenet Institute, Hammer creates and teaches earth-based, embodied ritual and study that transforms Jewish conceptions of prayer and ceremony. The Kohenet Institute holds its trainings in partnership with the Elat Chayyim Center for Jewish Spirituality in Falls Village, CT, and conducts other programming around the country.
Shira Klein and Naomi Less both serve at Lab/Shul in New York City, Klein as Founding Ritual Leader, Director of Worship and Family Education Director, and Less as Founding Ritual Leader, and Associate Director of Raising the Bar Director of Ritual, also at Lab/Shul. Lab/Shul describes itself as “an everybody-friendly, artist-driven, God-optional, experimental community for sacred Jewish gatherings based in NYC and reaching the world.” Building on Storahtelling, it also seeks to redefine the role of sacred gatherings that nourish our thirst for meaning, connection, spirituality and community. Naomi Less also leads a program called TRYMester: Jewish Fertility Journeys Outloud.
The third panel explored “Renewing Judaism Through Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.” ALEPH’s Executive Director, SooJi Min-Maranda, moderated.
Featured panelists were Jared Jackson, Executive Director and Founder of Jews in ALL Hues, an education and advocacy organization that supports multiple-heritage Jews. It also assists Jewish communities and organizations in the creation of sustainably-diverse communities. The panel also welcomed Rachel Faulkner, National Organizer, #Jewish Women of Color Marching, part of Dimensions, a women- and people of color-led nonprofit that provides training and consultancy in diversity, equity and inclusion. Finally, the panel welcomed Arielle Korman, co-founder of Ammud: Jews of Color Torah Academy. Ammud provides Jewish education for Jews of Color (JOCs), by Jews of Color. Ammud defines JOCs as people who are considered non-white in the U.S. by nature of their generational lineage, and identify as such (including Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews). Ammud allows Jewish people of color to access the Jewish education needed to be empowered members and leaders of the broader Jewish community, creating space to celebrate marginalized customs and traditions, uncover lost histories, and (re)build culture.
Segments of the greater ALEPH Hevra were invited to each of the panel presentations: ALEPH’s Network Community members were invited to the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion panel; AOP Alumni were invited to the Renewing Ritual panel, and current Earth-Based Judaism students of the AOP, as well as ALEPH’s major donors were invited to the Renewing Jewish Earth Connections panel.
The ALEPH Board, by unanimous consent, voted at the conclusion of their board meeting to donate a portion of the proceeds raised at Cabaret, the major fundraising event of Kallah (July 19, by Zoom invitation), to each of the panelists’ respective organizations, signaling its desire to join in partnership for the greater good.
Links to the organizations can be found below:
Jews of Color Marching/Dimensions Educational Consulting