Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
(Postal address available upon request)
ALEPH Rabbinic Program, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal transdenominational rabbinic program. Six years of intensive study. Ordained as a rabbi in January, 2011. Rabbinic teshuvah (final project) on hospital circumcision.
ALEPH Hashpa’ah (Jewish Spiritual Direction) Training Program, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Received ordination as a mashpi’ah / spiritual director, January 2012.
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.
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; meditation group on Friday mornings; teach in religious education programs; life-cycle events; pastoral counseling and care.
Co-chair, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, 2015-present. With Rabbi David Evan Markus I co-chair 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.
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.
M’saderet / Celebrant, 2003-present. Work with couples and families to create meaningful, personalized lifecycle celebrations (weddings, baby namings, funerals) grounded in Jewish tradition. (Can provide references on request.)
Freelance Writer, 1997-present. Credits include the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature (Oxford University Press, 2003), the Companion to 20th-Century American Poetry (Facts On File, 2004), The Forward, Lilith, Keeping Faith in Rabbis: A Community Conversation on Rabbinical Education (ed. Ellie Roscher and Rabbi Hayyim Herring, Avenida Books 2014.)
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, first annual Progressive Faith Blog Con, 2006. Dreamed up, planned, orchestrated, and ran the first annual gathering for bloggers of progressive faith in Montclair, New Jersey, including panels, keynote presentations, and worship rooted in four different faith-traditions. (Read transcripts and impressions here.)
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, my 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.
- Congregation Beth Israel, North Adams, two Shabbatot a month (usually the first and third Shabbat), as well as all holiday / festival services and lifecycle services. 2011-present.
- Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Falls Village, CT, Shavuot retreat 2016. With R. David Evan Markus.
- National Havurah Institute New England Winter Retreat, Rowe, MA, December 2016. With R. David Evan 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.
- 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.
Four book-length collections of poetry — Open My Lips, Ben Yehuda Press (Teaneck, NJ), 2016; Toward Sinai: Omer Poems, Velveteen Rabbi Press, 2016; Waiting to Unfold, Phoenicia Publishing (Montreal), 2013; and 70 Faces, Phoenicia Publishing (Montreal), 2011 — as well as several poetry chapbooks.
Regular contributions to The Wisdom Daily, since 2015. Including “Can You Learn to Love Navigating Transitions,” “What Do You Yearn For?,” “The Spiritual Power of Embracing Uncertainty.”
“Renewing Renewal: The Next Turning of ALEPH and Jewish Renewal” (with R. David Evan Markus), ALEPH Jewish Renewal Press and Kol ALEPH, expected 2016.
“Is There A Jewish Way to Parent?,” Moment magazine, winter 2016.
“Modah Ani: A Four-Worlds Tool for Transformation” will appear in Modeh Ani, Mesorah Matrix, ed. David Birnbaum and Martin Cohen, 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.
“Is Judaism Necessarily Insular?” appears in The Guide to Jewish Interfaith Family Life, Jewish Lights Publishing, 2001.
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.
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.)
Congregation Beth Israel Chevra Kadisha, 2005-present;
OHALAH Association of Jewish Renewal Clergy, 2011-present.
Spiritual Directors International, 2012-present.
ALEPH Board of Directors, 2014-present.
Co-chair, ALEPH Board of Directors, 2015-present.
President of the Berkshire Lyric Theatre Board of Directors, 2001;
Steering Committee, Infinite Capacity Partnership, 2002-2003;
Congregation Beth Israel Board of Directors, 2004-2007;
Congregation Beth Israel Religion Committee chair, 2004-2008;
Chair, Inkberry Board of Directors, 2000-2006;
Student member, OHALAH, 2006-2010;
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.
- Poetry — contemporary poems that open up Jewish life and practice
- Teaching writing — especially as a vehicle for exploring spiritual life
- 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.
Last updated October 2016.