Photo by David Verzi, 2007. (Yes, I know, I need a newer headshot, but this is the one I've got. While I'm at it, the photo in this blog header is by Len Radin, taken at Congregation Beth Israel in 2012.)
Hi there. Nice to meet you. I'm Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. I've been blogging as the Velveteen Rabbi since 2003. I can't take credit for my blog's clever title. As my first post notes, the name is borrowed from a cartoon by Jennifer Berman, which has hung over my desk since college. In April of 2008, TIME named Velveteen Rabbi one of their top 25 blogs in their first annual blog index. (They said very nice things. Thanks, TIME.)
When I began this blog in 2003, I was not a rabbi...yet. The blog's original tagline was "When can I run and play with the real rabbis?" In September 2005, I became a rabbinic student in the ALEPH rabbinic program, the transdenominational ordination program run by the Jewish Renewal movement. After five years of intensive and wonderful learning, I was ordained as a rabbi by ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal in 2011. In 2012, I received a second ordination from ALEPH as a mashpi'ah ruchanit (spiritual director.)
As of July 2011, I serve Congregation Beth Israel (North Adams, MA) as their rabbi. I am honored and humbled by that responsibility, and I take great joy in the work. We're a friendly, intimate congregation of about 100 member-families. If you're in the area, please do visit.
I hold an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. My first book-length collection of poems, 70 Faces: Torah poems, was published by Phoenicia Publishing in early 2011. My second, Waiting to Unfold, was published by Phoenicia in 2013. My third, Open My Lips, is forthcoming from Ben Yehuda Press. I'm author of several poetry chapbooks, among them What Stays (Bennington Writing Seminars Alumni Chapbook Series, 2002), Through (2009), a self-published collection of poems chronicling the experience of miscarriage and healing, and chaplainbook (laupe house press, 2006), a collection of poems arising out of hospital chaplaincy work. For more on all of these, see my Books page.
I'm excited about ecumenical work, both within Judaism (in 2012 I was chosen as a Rabbis Without Borders Fellow by RWB/CLAL) and outside of it (in 2006 I co-founded the first and only conference for bloggers of progressive faith across the faith spectrum, and in 2009 I participated in a retreat for Emerging Jewish and Muslim Religious Leaders. I was blessed to serve as alumna facilitator for that retreat in 2014.)
I grew up in Texas, and have lived in a small New England town since 1992. I'm married to Ethan Zuckerman, author of Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection. Together we're blessed to be the parents of a terrific young man named Drew.
You can learn more about me by visiting velveteenrabbi.com. Or, by reading an interview or three. Faithful Progressive interviewed me in spring of 2005, before I was a rabbinic student: The FP Interview: Rachel Barenblat of Velveteen Rabbi. And here's one from 2007, a couple of years into my rab school adventure: Rachel Barenblat: When Can I Run And Play With The Real Rabbis? (by David Verzi, from the Berkshire Jewish Voice.) Or, for a more recent glimpse: Poems enrich rabbi's ministry, by Abe Levy in the San Antonio Express-News (2011) -- or David Verzi's 2011 follow-up, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat: Heat and Light (also in the BJV.)
Of course, the best way to get to know me is to dive into the blog; there should be enough material there to keep anyone busy for a while. Enjoy!
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