July 8, 2009
Greetings post-Kallah! It was a marvelous gathering this year, filled with stories from the origins of Jewish Renewal, deep learning, incredible music, and much dance. I only wish more of you could've been there to soak up the ruakh (spirit), the music and dancing, and the learning. Miriam Stampfer, Kathy Sillavo, Rob Katz, Diane Byster, Yehudit and Reuven Goldfarb, and myself represented the Minyan this year, and I was honored to participate in the opening night program, the cabaret, and Shabbat morning davenning leadership (including leyning part of the Declaration of Independence to haftarah trope), as well to teach a week-long class titled "Dancing in the Light of G~d, A Site-Specific Four Worlds Movement Class". Yehudit also taught a an Otioyot Chayot (Living Letters) class, sharing her movement worked based on the Hebrew Aleph-Bet. Both classes were well received. Diane Byster led several yoga workshops, including a yoga davenning, her first time teaching at Kallah. The smaller-than-usual attendance (425 or so neshamot, including teachers and kids), while not great for ALEPH's finances, served to create a more intimate and manageable khevra, where people could feel more welcomed and befriended than stressed or overwhelmed by numbers.
On Saturday evening, at the close of a blissful Shabbat, the whole community gathered to share memories of Cantor Susan Wehle and Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield, both of whom passed away unexpectedly in recent months. Susan's sister, Eva, who had attended Kallah with Susan many times, shared stories and songs, along with Susan's dear friend, Cantor Linda Hirschhorn. Rabbi Yitz Husbands-Hankin led us in singing Reb Aryeh's powerful music. A young protege of Reb Aryeh, 15-year-old Elan Brownstein, sang a pure song of devotion he wrote for his rebbe and had us all in tears. We ended the evening in multiple circles of havdalah, blessing that Shabbos just past with our resolve to continue the work of Renewal by bringing the abundant, loving, flowing spirit of the week back to our home communities.
One great benefit of attending such regional and national/international gatherings--along with deep davenning, inspired learning, and outstanding food (just joking!)--is the opportunity to share best practices and develop a broader network of support for the work of the Minyan. It's ALEPH's hope to attach a day-and-a-half community leader's retreat to the next Kallah (2011), which will be held in the Pacific Northwest. Groups of 10 or more members of one community received a substantial discount this year. Now's the time to start planning for attending!