On serving CBI, and my new ALEPH role

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Some happy news became public this week: along with my friend and colleague Rabbi David Markus, I’ve been tapped to serve as co-chair of ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal. (See ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal names new leadership.) Rabbi David and I are humbled and honored to be asked to serve in this way — to have the incredible opportunity of carrying ALEPH and Jewish Renewal forward for new generations.

As the news has been percolating around Facebook, a few of you have reached out to ask me: will I still be your rabbi? What does this news mean for CBI? I’m writing today to offer instant reassurance: I will still be your rabbi for as long as y’all want to have me. I am honored and delighted to serve as CBI’s spiritual leader. That won’t change.

I believe, and I know Rabbi David agrees, that it’s important for ALEPH’s leadership to be pulpit clergy. ALEPH isn’t only an academic venture: we can’t lead ALEPH from a walled-off place detached from real life. Our Judaism needs to be lived: innovation needs to be effective in touching the lives of individuals and communities, or else it’s not particularly useful to anyone.

I think of CBI, and of Rabbi David’s little shul on City Island, and the growing network of other communities led by ALEPH-ordained clergy and aligned with ALEPH’s mission and vision, as living laboratories for the renewal of Judaism. What works at CBI, we can try to bring elsewhere. In that sense, the work I do at CBI is a key part of my ALEPH role.

I am always honored and blessed to serve the CBI community. And, I think and hope that the bigger-picture work I’m doing in the Jewish world will bring some prominence to CBI… and my experience at CBI will help me bring more wisdom to my ALEPH work. Perhaps my new role will bring some visibility to our little community in North Adams, and — who knows! — maybe even entice some new members to join us.

I hope that I will continue to bring creative and meaningful teachings, interpretations, and practices to our community, as I have done from the very beginning. And when what we do at CBI seems translate-able to a different setting, I will share some of our community’s practices and our community’s wisdom with the broader Jewish Renewal world.

For my part, I’ll be spending more of my non-CBI time working with Rabbi David, and my ALEPH colleagues, on striving to bring the spiritual resources of Jewish Renewal to a broader audience. My ALEPH work, like my poetry work, will happen during the “other” half of my time.

As I wrote in a blog post recently on my own blog, Velveteen Rabbi, Jewish Renewal has given me incalculable gifts. I look forward to helping to share those gifts with more people — including all of y’all at CBI — in years to come. And I hope that over time I can strengthen the connections between our little community which I love, and the broader Jewish Renewal community where I have found a home.

If you have questions or concerns about this, or about anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out — my door is always open.

Wishing y’all many blessings, as always,

Rabbi Rachel

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