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ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal is pleased to announce that Rabbi Aura Ahuvia was installed as the new Chair of the Board of Directors effective July 1, 2018. Rabbi Ahuvia serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Shir Tikvah, one of America’s only Reform/Renewal congregations, located in Troy, Michigan (near Detroit).
The daughter of a Holocaust survivor and the great-granddaughter of a shtetl refugee, Ahuvia had always felt the historic and cultural importance of Judaism but didn’t feel especially religiously motivated until after her children were born. Her path to ALEPH and renewal began with a pursuit for deeper Jewish knowledge.
“I intended to merely gain some lay-leadership skills through a program called DLTI (Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute),” recalls Ahuvia. “To my astonishment, the fire in me roared to new life: I had found training not just for my sake, but for the sake of building a Jewish home, from scratch, for others. Shortly thereafter, I entered the ALEPH rabbinic program with the commitment to serve.” Ahuvia attended DLTI from 2004-2006. She received both her rabbinic and spiritual director ordination from ALEPH in 2015.
“I cherish my ALEPH education for several reasons. One is that it demands the integration of our whole selves—body, spirit, inner emotional life and intellect—to the task of growing in our Judaism. I credit this whole-self approach with enabling knowledge to find its way into physical practices, and mindfulness to inform prayer. It infuses everything I do: the way I pray, the way I lead services, the way I teach, and now, the way I participate in the movement’s leadership. Furthermore, my ALEPH teachers taught us how to play within tradition, by helping us understand the deep underlying structures of prayer and their meanings. For me, it was the recipe for creativity within authenticity that I had been seeking.”
“Rabbi Aura Ahuvia is home grown,” says SooJi Min-Maranda, ALEPH’s Executive Director. “We are so blessed to have her leading our Board with love, understanding and care.”
Rabbi Ahuvia steps into the role previously filled by Rabbinic Pastor David Daniel Klipper. “My intention was always for my role as board chair to be temporary,” says Klipper. “I feel very good about the state of the Board and highly confident in Aura’s leadership. Personally, I’m excited to be able to return to teaching, which is my first love.”
For Ahuvia, the Board provides sacred stewardship to ALEPH. “There are so many creative, brilliant and unconventional change agents in ALEPH’s midst. The Board’s role is as the supporting cast. I’m reminded of our ancient forebears who were asked to serve as humble olive pickers. Their holy task was to press oil from the harvest, which fueled the eternal lamp, signaling God’s eternal presence. Much of today’s fuel comes in the form of dollars, the energy of which goes directly into funding today’s Jewish lights, as well as structural and other types of support. Our teachers, students, future leaders and communities need our help.”
On Shabbat evening, February 9, Hazzan Basya Schechter (ordained by ALEPH in 2016) and ALEPH cantorial student Diana Brewer joined forces with musicians and leaders of three congregations in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts – home of the next Kallah – for a Kabbalat Shabbat service at Congregation B’nai Israel of Northampton.
The collaboration came about when Mount Holyoke College’s Professor of Jewish Studies, Mara Benjamin, alerted the rabbis of four area congregations that Basya would be in the area giving a concert with her band Pharaoh’s Daughter. Rabbis Benjamin Weiner, Andrea Cohen-Kiener (another ALEPH musmach), Justin David, and Riqi Kosovske secured a generous grant from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and collaborated to bring the communities together for a Kabbalat Shabbat that won’t soon be forgotten.
As many as 400 people gathered from the Pioneer Valley and beyond for this special evening. The “house band” came largely from the Jewish Community of Amherst (JCA), co-directed by Diana, who has been serving as hazzan of JCA for a number of years. This collaboration is not a first for Basya and Diana, who have teamed up before in performances of Shechter’s collection of songs set to Yiddish poems by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel on her album “Songs of Wonder.” Musicians from congregations Beit Ahavah and B’nai Israel also contributed to the musical davvening experience.
“It was a wonderful chance to bring our shared ALEPH learning out into the world together,” Brewer reflected. “I think people really felt that connection.”
Rabbi Benjamin Weiner of JCA said of the experience, “It’s a rare thing in life that a vision turns out just about exactly as you hoped it would, but that was certainly the case for me with this event. Basya had a great time… she spoke of the ease with which we assembled ourselves around her, and referred to the experience of real moments of sublimity in the midst of the service itself.”