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What is Jewish Renewal?

The Jewish Renewal movement is dedicated to the Jewish people's sacred purpose of partnership with the Divine in the inseparable tasks of healing the world and healing our hearts.

Jewish Renewal combines ancient and modern Jewish wisdom, integrating Judaism’s prophetic and mystical traditions with a progressive, egalitarian consciousness. It creates a deeply meaningful Jewish path to connect with the Divine through meditation, prayer, music, chant, dance, study, and spiritually rooted social action. It seeks to nurture intimate, participatory, and egalitarian communities that dance and wrestle with God and assist the spiritual growth and healing of individuals, communities, whole societies, and the planet. It brings creativity, relevance, joy, and an all-embracing awareness to spiritual practice and promotes justice, freedom, responsibility, and caring for all life.

Jewish Renewal draws on the wisdom of Jewish tradition without getting stuck in it – infusing these with the insights of contemporary ecology, feminism, and participatory democracy.

In Jewish Renewal:

  • Women and men are fully equal and participatory in shaping the future of Judaism;
  • Those who have traditionally been marginalized in Jewish life (such as gay men and lesbians, converts, those who are new to the study of Torah and the process of prayer) are welcomed and honored;
  • There is respect for and often learning from other spiritual paths;
  • People seek to heal the earth and society through seeking peace, justice, and ecological wholeness;
  • Chant, meditation, dance, and "bibliodrama" are encouraged as ways of connecting with God and Torah;
  • People want to embody wisdom in addition to intellectualizing and learning about it;
  • People sense God as filling the world with Divinity.

Jewish Renewal is "maximalist" about Judaism—that is, it tries to apply Judaism in many down-to-earth life-dimensions (food, money, sex, health, politics, etc.) rather than restrict it to just prayer or holy days or Torah study.

Jewish Renewal is based on the conviction that we are entering a profoundly different period of Jewish life. Many Jewish Renewal groups understand that the Divine in the universe is calling on us to move beyond old ways of connecting with God as King and Judge toward metaphors that are much more intimate—Breath of Life, for example—and toward a whole new paradigm of Jewish life in all its dimensions, including:

  • New words and forms of prayer;
  • New proactive efforts to help heal the wounded earth;
  • New efforts toward mutual respect between the Jewish people and other peoples and paths, in the world at large and in the Land of Israel;
  • New efforts to carry Jewish wisdom into the public sphere.

Several important books that specifically and broadly address the issues of renewing Jewish life:

  • Zalman Schachter-Shalomi's Paradigm Shift (Jason Aronson)
  • Jonathan Omer-Man and Shohama Wiener, eds, Worlds of Jewish Prayer & The 58th Century (Jason Aronson)
  • Michael Lerner's Jewish Renewal (Putnam)
  • Rodger Kamenetz's The Jew in the Lotus (Harper San Francisco)
  • Judy Petsonk, Taking Judaism Personally (Free Press)
  • Arthur Waskow's Seasons of Our Joy (Beacon), Down-to-Earth Judaism (Morrow 1995) Godwrestling—Round 2 (Jewish Lights, 1996), and, with Phyllis Berman, Tales of Tikkun (Jason Aronson)

The Jewish Renewal Movement

Jewish Renewal is transdenominational and inclusive, welcoming everyone with a Jewish soul.

ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal is a core institution of the Jewish Renewal movement. It grew out of the P'nai Or Religious Fellowship founded by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in 1962. It organizes and nurtures communities, develops leaderships, creates liturgical and scholarly resources, and works for social and environmental justice.

ALEPH’s affiliated projects include the ALEPH Kallah, a biennial convocation; OhaLaH: The Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal; ALEPH's Rabbinic Studies Program; the Network of Jewish Renewal Communities; ALEPH's Sage-ing Program; C-DEEP (The Center for Devotional, Energy, and Ecstatic Practice); and The Shalom Center.

The Elat Chayyim Center for Jewish Spirituality, a program of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, is also part of the Jewish Renewal movement. A living laboratory for the development and renewal of contemporary Jewish spiritual life, Elat Chayyim offers retreats promoting practices that draw on the wisdom of Jewish tradition and reflect the values and consciousness of our ever-evolving modern experience of Judaism. The Center teaches experiential approaches to Jewish learning, ritual, and prayer that help participants in their search to cultivate the awareness of the Divine presence in all aspects of life.

Getting in Touch

Aleph: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal
7000 Lincoln Drive #B2
Philadelphia, PA 19119

The Elat Chayyim Center for Jewish Spirituality
116 Johnson Road
Falls Village, CT 06031

Sat, June 22 2024 16 Sivan 5784