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.”

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

Blessings to, from, and within Colorado!

My heart overflows with gratitude. Experienced my first ALEPH ordination/Smicha and first OHALAH conference. Mazal Tov again to all our new clergy and thank you to everyone who helped create the sacred space of OHALAH.

I want to share part of my remarks that I made on Tuesday:

About six months ago, I found my soul yearning for something more both professionally and personally. There is more to my story as a Jew by Choice and as a Jewish professional working within the Jewish community. I was asked during the interview process how I would do in a room full of rabbis. And so here I am. I know I can do this. Just as I said standing on the Bima 4 years ago as an adult bat mitzvah, it doesn’t matter that I am a Jew by choice. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t grow up in a Jewish home or go to Jewish camps. God is always here. No middle man. I am not seeking salvation. What I continue to seek is meaning — a life of purpose, a life filled with love and connection. No posturing. No games. There is something to be said about not trying too hard. Fully embracing myself and those around me. Submerge. Surrender. Speak honestly and openly. Turning and re-turning.