I'm on my way today back to Colorado for two weeks of ALEPH programming. The ALEPH Kallah begins on July 11, and of course I'll be there for that -- wouldn't miss it for the world. But I'm going to be there this week, too.
During my years of rabbinic school, I always went to another week of ALEPH learning before the Kallah -- what we called "smicha students' week" (or "smicha week" for short), a week-long learning intensive with the ALEPH Ordination Program community of students and faculty.
We would daven together three times a day, learn together all day and all evening, and generally enjoy the pleasure of steeping in one another's company and in our studies. The classes we took during those intensive weeks would continue via teleconference calls (or, by the time I finished the program, webconference video calls) for months thereafter.
Last time I did that was summer of 2010. (I wrote about it here: My last smicha students' week. That's where I wrote the poem that begins "Don't chew on your mama's tefillin...") As that poem makes clear, I had an infant at the time, and navigating his needs while immersing in study and community made that a week not quite like any other.
The following January I was ordained, and since then, I haven't attended smicha students' week -- it's not for me anymore. I've felt some sadness about that. I miss the hevreschaft (community of learners) and the spirited daily davenen. But it's a natural consequence of finishing rabbinic school, so I accepted it... until now.
This year ALEPH is piloting a new program for ordained clergy, which we're calling Clergy Camp. Those of us who are ordained and practicing in the field are invited back during smicha students' week for our own dedicated learning track. While the students are doing their learning, we'll be doing our continuing education. We'll get to share meals and davenen with the ordination program community. I anticipate that it will feature much of the joy I used to take in smicha students' week -- without the stress of being a graduate student!
During the mornings I'll be studying geirut, conversion, with Rabbi Jeff Fox, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Maharat, the groundbreaking Orthodox seminary ordaining women to serve as clergy. During the afternoons there will be a skills practicum taught by Reverend Dr. Bill Kondrath, Director of Theological Field Education at Episcopal Divinity School. During the evenings we'll be integrating our learning via group hashpa'ah (spiritual direction.) It promises to be a rich and full week. I'm incredibly excited about it. To those whom I'll be seeing at Clergy Camp, and those whom I'll be seeing at Kallah next week: travel safely!