All is not well in the world and my heart is heavy. I am worried that every time ALEPH sends an update about Kallah—our biennial renewal gathering—that we are sending the wrong message. I don’t want others to think that we, as a community, are “retreating” in the sense that we are running away or hiding from all the pain and suffering that is going on each and every day. On the contrary—I am hopeful that the Kallah will enable all of us to restore, strengthen our resolve, and re-engage with deep reserves of empathy, kindness and gratitude.

The ALEPH Board of Directors will be meeting just prior to Kallah. They, too, are looking to the future and will set a clear path for ALEPH in terms of clarifying our purpose and direction on how we can best serve Renewal. And with a clear directive from ALEPH’s Board, rest assured that I will not stand idly by. At the age of three, I was brought to the US from South Korea by my non-English speaking mother. I, personally, am looking forward to taking a more active role on behalf of our community. I will look to partner at every opportunity and tread lightly, seeking to avoid redundancies, turfs and listening more than I speak.

I look forward to meeting the nearly 500 of you who will be joining us soon in Amherst! This Kallah has, like all others, been a true labor of love. We are extraordinarily privileged and fortunate to have the opportunity to work on our own spiritual transformation. It is a gift and a blessing that come with a brit olam to repair the world. So beyond the songs, prayers, dancing and learning—there will be ample opportunities to gather around the concerns of the day. There will be ample time for serious conversations and making deep connections with a keen eye towards future action and engagement. Let’s make the most of our time together. There is much work to be done.

Wishing you shalom—peace, wholeness and completeness.

SooJi Min-Maranda
Executive Director of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal

Mazal tov to the 2018 graduates of Embodying Spirit, En-spiriting Body, Cohort 3!

Embodying Spirit, En-spiriting Body has been a two-year movement-based Jewish leadership training directed by Rabbi Diane Elliot. Participants discovered the shape and dynamic of the traditional Jewish prayer liturgies by moving them through their own bodies, experiencing the transformative power of inviting prayer to well up from the depths of one’s own being. The work embodies aspects of Torah, Kabbalah (Jewish mystical wisdom), and the sacred cycles of living and dying.

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.”

Diana Brewer (left), Rabbi Justin David of Congregation B’nai Israel (middle), and Hazzan Basya Schechter (right)

Kallah 2018 | February Update
Immersive. Expansive.Transformative.

What’s Going on with Kallah Planning?

  • The 4-day intensive classes are being finalized. We want you to know that they are awesome! We hope you will be as excited as we are. These classes are being taught by invitation only, with the intention of showcasing an array of offerings that includes familiar teachers as well as teachers whose voices and teachings are newer to our community. We will announce the schedule for 4-day classes very soon, at the same time as the 1-day workshops.
  • The opportunity to propose a 1-day workshops is also now closed. Thank you to the over 100 people who submitted proposals! We are now making sure all submissions are complete and then we’ll will begin the blind reader selection process. We will announce the 1-day workshop schedule at the same time as the 4-day class schedule – soon!
  • YES! Early-bird registration is still open. Click here to register for Kallah. YES! Everyone who registers early will have priority access to all classes and workshops.
  • We are ramping up our committees and working to staff up all the remaining positions.

We Want to Hear from You!
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. The entire ALEPH staff is working hard to respond as quickly as possible.

We thank Tamy Jacobs for all the hard work & heart she given to ALEPH for the past two years. Even though Tamy is not continuing in her previous Kallah role, she remains a beloved member of our Jewish Renewal and ALEPH family. We bless her with the best success in all her endeavors.

Several Kallah staff and volunteer positions are open, and some are now filled.

ALEPH has hired a new Kallah Event Manager! We welcome Jennifer Evers. Who is Jennifer? “I am a project manager, event planner, social media wrangler, and content creator who can juggle all the pieces of a project at once without dropping a single task, all with a smile that emphatically states: I’ve got this under control.” Jennifer can be reached by email at jennifere@aleph.org. She will manage and coordinate all the varied strands that weave our Kallah experience together, so that each and every one of us can have the best possible Kallah experience ever!