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2011: ALEPH Ordains Seven Rabbis, Two Rabbinic Pastors and One Hazzan

On January 9, 2011/ Shevat 4, 5771 near Boulder, CO, on the Sunday preceding the annual conference of OHALAH: The Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal, ALEPH welcomed seven new rabbis, two rabbinic pastors and one hazzan into the cadre of ordained Jewish Renewal leaders, now over 150 strong. Family, friends and other guests swelled attendance at the popular OHALAH conference from 150 to 385 for the moving and inspiring ordination ritual. A packed, loving and joyful room witnessed the transmission of trust, permission and blessing, bestowed upon the ten new leaders as they recited poetry, prayed, taught and sang their way through the ceremony.

Each year's ordination ritual offers a blend of tradition and creativity, delighting those who come to share in the poignant event. As the music and chant begin, the core faculty and Directors of Studies (the VAAD) processes into room, passing beneath a chuppah held high by senior renewal leaders. All stand to honor the beloved teachers who guide this growing seminary-without-walls, which now embraces students from the US, Canada, and as far away as Australia, the Netherlands, Israel, and Germany.

The founder of the seminary and inspirational guide of Jewish Renewal, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, greeted the procession, led by Director and Dean of ALEPH Ordination Programs Rabbi Marcia Prager, Associate Dean and ALEPH’s Director of Spiritual Resources Rabbi Daniel Siegel, followed by Director of the Rabbinic Pastor Program R’P’ Shulamit Fagan, Director of the Cantorial Program Hazzan Jack Kessler, and Rosh Hashpa’ah and Director of the Spiritual Direction Program Rabbi Shohama Wiener
. The procession of teachers was complete when the seven other members of the VAAD, Rabbis Sami Barth, Leila Gal Berner, Elliot Ginsburg, Victor Gross, Shaya Isenberg, Laura Duhan Kaplan, and Steve Silvern entered.

As the melody shifted, the group of those to be ordained entered, singing a composition by rabbi-to-be Simcha Zevit: “Va’anachnu lo-neda ma-na'avod et Adonai, ad boenu shamah – And we shall not know with what we are to serve G!d until we get there.” This famous phrase from Torah is Moshe’s explanation to Pharaoh when Moshe demands that no one be left behind when we pass beyond the borders of Egypt to serve our G!d.

The 2011 Ordinees

Rabbinic Pastor Matia Rania Angelou

Known as one of the women who introduced Kos Miriam/Miriam’s Cup onto our seder tables, from Wayland, MA

Rabbi Rachel Evelyne Barenblat

Award-winning blogger, renowned poet, our beloved Velveteen Rabbi in Williamstown, MA

Hazzan Shoshana Brown

Former Episcopal seminarian now Jewish liturgist, cantor and baalat niggunim in Huntington, NY

Rabbi Simcha Daniel Burstyn

Twenty-five-year Jewish Renewalist, member of Kibbutz Lotan in Israel’s Arava desert, peace-worker

Rabbi Yafa Chase

Community Chaplain of Santa Fe, NM

Rabbi Meira Chmiel

Teacher in Boulder, CO

Rabbinic Pastor Judith Goleman

Psychotherapist and congregational activist in Sebastopol. CA

Rabbi Debra Kolodny

Executive Director of ALEPH and spiritual leader of P'nai HaSadeh in Silver Spring, MD

Rabbi Dr. Shulamit Thiede

Professor of Jewish Studies at UNC Charlotte and spiritual leader of Temple Or Olam in Concord, NC

Rabbi Simcha Zevit

Spiritual leader of HaMakom in Cleveland, OH


During the ceremony, their teachings spanned the arc from slavery to freedom, as individuals and pairs taught on selected passages from the Torah portions Bo and Beshallach. Poetry, chant, prayer, hassidic text, Zoharic imagery and stories culled from the students’ journeys and pastoral work were woven together to bring all in the room across the Sea of Reeds, both dancing with joy and acknowledging the trepidation of the unknown future.

Teachers and mentors then gathered under the chuppah to lay hands on our new leaders, articulating the formula for transmitting the power to serve. Yashar koach to each of ALEPH’s new musmachim.

May your journey forward unfold with grace and abundant blessing as you learn how, with whom and with what gifts you are to serve!