Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
(Postal address available upon request)
Hashpa/ah (Spiritual Direction) ordination, ALEPH. Received ordination as a mashpi’ah / spiritual director, January 2012.
Rabbinic ordination, ALEPH. Six years of intensive study. Ordained as a rabbi in January, 2011. Rabbinic teshuvah (final project) on hospital circumcision. Clinical Pastoral Education unit through Albany Medical Center under the supervision of Rev. Harlan Ratmeyer.
Bennington College, Bennington, VT. MFA in Writing and Literature, concentration in poetry, 1999. Studied with April Bernard, David Lehman, Thomas Sayers Ellis and Jason Shinder.
Williams College, Williamstown, MA. BA with Honors in Religion, concentrations in Women’s and Judaic Studies, 1996. Honors Thesis in Religion, 1996 (“Jewish Mystics: Using Language, Transcending Language, Becoming Language.”) Dean’s List.
Co-founder, Bayit: Building Jewish, 2017-present. As co-founder of this emergent Jewish creative spirituality nonprofit for all ages and stages, I manage publications and collaborate with colleagues (lay and clergy) of all denominations to give people the tools they need to build Jewish.
Rabbi, Congregation Beth Israel, North Adams MA, 2011-present. (Rabbinic student intern, Congregation Beth Israel, North Adams MA, 2005-2010.) Lead services two Shabbatot a month, as well as all festival services; teach all ages (especially b. mitzvah students) in religious education programs; preside over life-cycle events; offer pastoral counseling and care.
Mashpi’ah / Spiritual Director, 2009-present. Work with clients one-on-one to help them discern the presence of the sacred in their lives and to offer guidance and teaching on matters of faith and spiritual practice. Also offer group spiritual direction.
Freelance Writer, 1997-present. Credits range from The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature (Oxford University Press, 2003) and Modeh Ani: The Transcendent Prayer of Gratitude (Mesorah Matrix, 2017) to The Forward, Lilith, and more. See my bibliography for a full listing.
Interim Jewish Chaplain, Williams College, spring 2017. I guided and cared for the Jewish community on campus, worked with Williams Interfaith and with Feminists of Faith, and collaborated with Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim chaplain colleagues on a variety of interfaith programs, including our week-long service learning trip with Habitat for Humanity in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Co-chair, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, 2015-2017. With Rabbi David Evan Markus I co-chaired ALEPH, the organizational body of the movement for the renewal of Judaism, fostering egalitarian Judaism as a profound spiritual practice and social transformer that reaches beyond religious boundaries and institutional structures.
Contributing Editor, Zeek, 2006-2012. I contributed periodic essays and interviews to this “Jewish journal of thought and culture,” an independent literary magazine which existed online and in print.
Conference Organizer, Progressive Faith Blog Con, 2006. Dreamed up, planned, orchestrated, and ran a gathering for bloggers of progressive faith in Montclair, New Jersey, including panels, keynote presentations, and worship rooted in four different faith-traditions.
Student Chaplain, Albany Medical Center, Albany NY, 2005-2006. Nine months of chaplaincy internship: coursework, interpersonal relations training, and regular rotation as on-call chaplain for this Stage III trauma center serving the Capitol District.
Co-founder / Executive Director, Inkberry, 2000-2006. Taught writing workshops, moderated book groups, planned reading series, publicized, raised funds for and managed this literary nonprofit serving the Berkshire region.
Editor, The Women’s Times, 1999-2001. Selected themes for upcoming issues, assigned articles, edited submissions, wrote articles/cover stories/reviews, assembled resource guides, oversaw editorial content, managed the editorial department, and served as a community liaison throughout the distribution area for both editions of The Women’s Times. Served as contributing editor 2001-2002.
MAKING JUDAISM ACCESSIBLE:
The Velveteen Rabbi’s Haggadah for Pesach arose out of my collegiate involvement with the Williams College Feminist Seder Project. It interweaves traditional liturgy with poetry, new interpretations, and opportunities for participant engagement and Judaic self-empowerment. Since 2004 I have offered it as a free, regularly-updated, open-source resource on the internet. It has been downloaded thousands of times and used around the world.
Days of Awe: the Velveteen Rabbi’s Machzor for the Yamim Nora’im, with Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser; this machzor (high holiday prayerbook), was first released in 2014. Like the haggadah (above), it balances tradition with innovation, uses poetry to open up classical sources, and offers a variety of paths through the holiday season in order to enable worshippers to both find and make meaning in their holiday observance.
Beside Still Waters: A Journey of Comfort and Renewal, Bayit and Ben Yehuda Press, 2019. I edited (and contributed some poems to) this pluralist volume designed to meet the needs of mourners along the the depth and breadth of the mourner’s path. The book contains prayers before death, materials for aninut, full shiva liturgies, and materials for shloshim, yahrzeit, and yizkor, as well as prayers for specific circumstances often ignored in shiva resources (e.g. when there is no grave, or mourning an abusive relationship.)
Holy at Home, Bayit, 2020. Holy at Home is an editable set of machzor slide decks designed for screenshare / digital services during the covid-19 pandemic and beyond. We titled the slide decks Holy at Home because that’s the work of this time: sanctifying the place where we are, wherever we are. They contain classical liturgy, poetry, images, meditative offerings, and more, and are designed to be customized for each community’s use.
- Congregation Beth Israel, North Adams, two Shabbatot a month, as well as all holiday / festival services and lifecycle services. 2011-present.
- Clear Vision Reb Zalman Legacy Shabbaton, Havurah Shir Hadash, Ashland OR 2020. (Via Zoom; the weekend’s theme was emerging paradigms in shifting spiritual practice sparked by pandemic.) With R. David Markus.
- Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Falls Village, CT, Shavuot retreat 2016. With R. David Markus.
- National Havurah Institute New England Winter Retreat, Rowe, MA, December 2016. With R. David Markus.
- Beyond Walls, a multi-faith endeavor at the Kenyon Institute, 2015.
- High Holiday cantorial soloist / assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel, 2010. Co-led all services, using guitar, melody, poetry, and song to enliven our worship; offered a sermon in poetry on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.
- OHALAH, the annual conference of Jewish Renewal clergy, 2009.
- Childrens’ services, Days of Awe, Congregation Beth Israel, 2007-2009.
- Led all services during the four months of the then-rabbi’s sabbatical at Congregation Beth Israel, 2006.
Adjunct Faculty, Academy for Jewish Religion – New York (2021-present)
• Instructor in trimester courses for accredited clergy ordination and M.A. programs. Newly-developed courses include “Writing the Sacred, Writing Ourselves: Harnessing Midrashic Process for Spiritual Leadership” (SPI 385, spring 2021) and “The Virtual and the Real: Doing Jewish Digitally in the 21st Century” (co-developed and co-taught with R. David Markus, SPI 375, summer 2021.)
Individual classes / workshops:
- Entering the Psalms, Academy for Spiritual Formation, Omaha NE (2018)
- Eit Ratzon / A Time of Will, A Time of Yearning, Hazon, Falls Village CT (2017)
- Thankful Before You, National Havurah Institute, Rowe MA (2016)
- Modern Midrash, ALEPH Kallah, Fort Collins, CO (2016)
- Blogging as Spiritual Practice, Beyond Walls, The Kenyon Institute, Gambier, OH (2015)
- Writing the Psalms of Our Hearts, ALEPH Kallah, Rindge, NH (2015)
- Writing Torah Poems, North Adams Public Library, Berkshire Festival of Women Writers (2011)
- Writing Your Heart’s Prayer, ALEPH Kallah, Columbus, OH (2009)
- Standing Tall, Inkberry / Elizabeth Freeman Center, North Adams, MA (2007 and 2008)
- The Lyric Poem, Poetry of the Numinous, Put It In Writing (among many others), Inkberry, North Adams, MA (2000-2006)
I offer these workshops (and others) now as a scholar-in-residence at Shabbatonim (weekend retreats) at congregations around New York and New England.
Velveteen Rabbi, a regularly-updated blog focusing on Judaism, since 2003. In 2008, Time.com named Velveteen Rabbi one of the top 25 blogs in the world in its First Annual Blog Index.
Six book-length collections of poetry — Crossing the Sea, Phoenicia (Montreal QC), 2020; Texts to the Holy, Ben Yehuda Press, (Teaneck, NJ, 2018); Open My Lips, Ben Yehuda Press (Teaneck), 2016; Toward Sinai: Omer Poems, Velveteen Rabbi Press (Williamstown MA), 2016; Waiting to Unfold, Phoenicia Publishing (Montreal, QC), 2013; and 70 Faces, Phoenicia Publishing (Montreal), 2011 — as well as several poetry chapbooks.
Regular contributions to The Wisdom Daily, 2015-2018. Including “Can You Learn to Love Navigating Transitions,” “What Do You Yearn For?,” “The Spiritual Power of Embracing Uncertainty.”
“Is There A Jewish Way to Parent?,” Moment magazine, winter 2016.
“Modah Ani: A Four-Worlds Tool for Transformation” appears in Modeh Ani: The Transcendent Prayer of Gratitude, ed. Birnbaum and Cohen, Mesorah Matrix, 2017.
“That Special Yearning for Shabbat,” Reform Judaism blog, 2015.
“New Depths in Jewish-Muslim Dialogue: Jewish Privilege,” Zeek, 2014.
“To Make Our Hands Holy” appears in The Women’s Seder Sourcebook, Jewish Lights Publishing, 2002.
Poetry publications include The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry (2013) and Finding Home (Holy Cow! Press, 2013), The Hawai’i Pacific Review, Phoebe, Confrontation, The New Orleans Review, The Portland Review, and a variety of denominational machzorim and siddurim (high holiday and year-round prayerbooks.)
For a complete publication listing, please see my bibliography.
INTERFAITH / TRANSDENOMINATIONAL WORK:
Progressive Faith Blog Con, a gathering of bloggers of progressive religious faith, 2006. Founded and co-chaired the conference and led Friday night prayer.
PANIM interdenominational rabbinic student retreat on the theme of “Social justice and the rabbinate,” 2007. Co-led Saturday night prayer.
Retreat for Emerging Jewish and Muslim Religious Leaders, Reconstructionist Rabbinic College Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives, 2009. In 2014, served as an alumna facilitator on that retreat; in 2016, was a participant in the final iteration of that retreat which was co-presented by ISNA.
Interfaith ritual of Jewish-Muslim solidarity, 2017. In response to desecration of Jewish cemeteries and arson of mosques, I worked with my Muslim chaplain colleague at Williams to co-create an interfaith event of solidarity and prayer. Read about it at Ritualwell: When Jews and Muslims Pray Together.
Williams College Interfaith Service Team Trip to Tuscaloosa, 2017. With my Christian, Catholic, and Muslim chaplain colleagues, co-led an interfaith service trip to Alabama for college students of many faiths. We visited civil rights sites, worshiped in four different houses of worship, collaborated on construction work with Habitat for Humanity, and each night studied a different religious tradition’s teachings on brokenness and repair. I ministered to students of all faiths both during and after our week together. (You can read a little bit about the trip here.)
Katz Family Fellow, 2018-2019 cohort of the LEAP Fellowship created by CLAL and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. (NB: I had to withdraw from this fellowship before it was complete due to my mother’s death.)
Scholar-In-Residence, 2020 Clear Vision Reb Zalman Legacy Shabbaton, Havurah Shir Hadash, Ashland, OR. 2020. With R. David Markus.
America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis, The Forward, 2016. Named one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis; nominated by readers, selected by the editorial board of the newspaper.
Rabbis Without Borders Fellow, 2012-2013 academic year. Chosen to participate in a year-long trans-denominational fellowship for innovative rabbis, with rabbis from across the denominational spectrum. (About the RWB Fellowship Program.)
Bayit Board of Directors, 2017-present;
Congregation Beth Israel Chevra Kadisha, 2005-present;
Spiritual Directors International, 2012-present.
Congregation Beth Israel Board of Directors, 2004-2007;
Congregation Beth Israel Religion Committee chair, 2004-2008;
Chair, Inkberry Board of Directors, 2000-2006;
Organization for Transformative Works Board of Directors, 2009-2011;
OHALAH Tikkun Olam committee, 2012-2013;
OHALAH Board of Directors, 2012-2014;
Zeek magazine Board of Directors 2013-2015;
ALEPH Board of Directors, 2014-2017.
Co-chair, ALEPH Board of Directors, 2015-2017. With R. David Markus.
- Poetry — contemporary poems that open up Jewish life and practice
- Teaching writing — especially as a vehicle for exploring spiritual life
- Working with kids — bringing Judaism alive for children of all ages
- Meditation — can lead and teach a variety of Jewish contemplative practices
- Bringing Judaism alive — through innovative liturgy and engagement with tradition
- Reaching the disaffected and unaffiliated — including those in dual-faith households
- Heart-centered prayer — classical liturgical prayer and spontaneous / creative prayer
- Trans-denominational service — spanning the branches of Judaism
References available on request.