This is the (no longer new) Congregation Beth Israel From the Rabbi blog, where you can find the latest updates from Reb Rachel. This blog archives all of the communications sent out by Reb Rachel and by our other community rabbis / shlichei tzibbur, so if you ever want to find something but don’t remember if it’s still in your inbox, never fear — you can find it here.
I’m Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, known informally as Rabbi Rachel or Reb Rachel. I’m honored to serve the CBI community. I’ve been a member here for many years, and have served as the rabbi here since 2011. (I’m also known online as The Velveteen Rabbi, which is my nom de blog since 2003. In 2008, TIME named my blog one of the top 25 sites on the internet.)
For those who are interested, here’s a little bit more about me. I was born and reared in San Antonio, Texas (though I’ve lived in northern Berkshire since 1992.) I am an alumna of Williams College (BA in religion, 1996) and Bennington College (MFA in writing and literature, 1999). Before coming to the rabbinate I was co-founder and for many years executive director of Inkberry, a literary arts nonprofit in North Adams.
I was ordained as a rabbi by ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal in 2011. In 2012, I received a second ordination from ALEPH as a mashpi’ah (spiritual director). I’ve been blessed to be involved with some really wonderful endeavors — in 2012 I was chosen as a Rabbis Without Borders Fellow by RWB/CLAL, and in 2009 I participated in a retreat for Emerging Jewish and Muslim Religious Leaders, which I’ll be helping to facilitate in 2014.
I am author of several collections of poetry, among them 70 faces, a collection of Torah poems which features one poem arising out of each of the weekly parshiyot (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011), Waiting to Unfold, a collection of motherhood poems written during my pregnancy and the first year of my son’s life (Phoenicia, 2013), and the forthcoming Open My Lips, a collection of Jewish liturgical poetry (Velveteen Rabbi Press, due in late 2013.)
You can read excerpts from 70 faces (and hear me reading some of the poems aloud) here if you’re so inclined. And this page contains links to many of the liturgies and prayers I’ve written over the years — some of which were written for use at CBI! Speaking of CBI, you can find the sermons I’ve given at CBI archived at From the Rabbi: Sermons, and divrei Torah at From the Rabbi: Divrei Torah. (For an archive of my earlier divrei Torah, visit the VR Divrei Torah page, which contains all of the divrei Torah I’ve given since 2006.)
My current project is Days of Awe: The Velveteen Rabbi’s Machzor for the Yamim Nora’im, a beautiful and meaningful high holiday prayerbook which I hope we’ll be using at CBI in the fall of 2014 (and which I will also release online at cost for those who need it elsewhere.)
I live in Lanesboro with my husband Ethan Zuckerman and our son Drew. You can learn more about me by visiting velveteenrabbi.com. Or, by reading an interview — see Poems enrich rabbi’s ministry, by Abe Levy in the San Antonio Express-News (2011), or Rabbi Rachel Barenblat: Heat and Light, by David Verzi in the Berkshire Jewish Voice (also 2011),
I’m gladdened and honored to have the opportunity to serve the CBI community and, in so doing, to serve God. I look forward to connecting soon. Please feel free to call or email me anytime. If you’re reaching out on a synagogue-related matter, you can email me at rabbibarenblat (at) gmail (dot) com.
Wishing you every blessing,