For some ALEPH Ordination Program graduates, gathering in seminary classes and retreats is a fond memory of the distant past. For others who recently left the nest of the AOP, there is a renewed calling to find a place in a network of support that extends beyond the seminary. And for everyone, it has been a challenging time navigating a new world of online teaching, davening, and living. With all of this in mind, Hazzan Stephanie Weishaar (Class of ‘21) has a solution: “Clearly, it is time to renew and re-establish the ALEPH Alumni Association.”
The AOP’s Alumni Association is preparing to relaunch this summer under Hazzan Stephanie’s leadership. She sees the rebirth of the Alumni Association as an opportunity “to reconnect our hevre and offer support to the program we love so dearly.” The Alumni Association will aim to sustain and grow the unique spiritual kinship between AOP alumni, a kinship solidified by a shared understanding of what it means to be in the ALEPH community. “Our hope is that an active alumni association will bring us all the connections we have missed as well as share our post-seminary learning to the current AOP students,” wrote Hazzan Stephanie in a recent message to the alumni network.
Hazzan Stephanie received cantorial smicha from the ALEPH Ordination Program in January of 2021. She has served as the Spiritual Leader for Kol Nefesh congregation in Columbia, Maryland, since 2014. Her path to the cantorate included serving as a lay leader and congregation president, youth group advisor, music teacher, and soloist in several Reform and Reconstructionist congregations in Maryland and Virginia. Prior to her work in Jewish music and education, Hazzan Stephanie studied International Relations and devoted twenty years to working in small, charitable organizations improving communities in Ukraine, Russia, and the United States. Originally from Chicago, Stephanie has lived most of her adult life in the DC area. She, her husband, and their two dogs live on a farm in Clarksburg, Maryland. Their two children are launched out in the world, one in the Boston area and one nearby in Maryland.
The Alumni Association will start with some basic offerings in the coming months and grow their programming organically based on participants interests. Initial offerings will include peer-to-peer continuing education opportunities, practical rabbinics workshops for current AOP students, and a series of Zoom sessions to talk with current AOP students about life after smicha and what it means to move in the world as Jewish clergy. Further programming needs will be identified by the newly formed Alumni Association Steering Committee, a group that is in early formation and actively seeking alumni volunteers.
If the idea of creating this network has piqued your interest, Hazzan Stephanie invites you to reach out and join the steering committee. “We are looking for a few ordainees of each program to serve on the steering committee that will help govern and grow the Alumni Association. We also welcome folks with interest in creating specific programs or connections under the AOP Alumni Association umbrella.” ALEPH is thrilled to celebrate the relaunch of the alumni network and the renewed opportunity for our alumni to connect. In the words of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l, “The only way to get it together…is together.”