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: Alliance for Jewish Renewal in 2011. In 2012, I received a second ordination from ALEPH as a mashpi'ah ruchanit (spiritual director.)
Today I serve as co-chair, with Rabbi David Evan Markus, of ALEPH. I hold a BA in religion from Williams College and an MFA in Writing and Literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars. I'm author of four book-length collections of poetry: 70 faces: Torah poems (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011), Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013),Toward Sinai: Omer poems (Velveteen Rabbi, 2016) and Open My Lips (Ben Yehuda Press, 2016), as well as several poetry chapbooks.
A 2012 Rabbis Without Borders Fellow, I'm an alumna facilitator for the Emerging Jewish and Muslim Religious Leaders retreat organized by RRC's Office of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives. I'm a regular contributor to Kol ALEPH, to the Reform Judaism Blog, and to The Wisdom Daily, and I was a regular contributor to Zeek magazine, "a Jewish journal of thought & culture," from 2005-2015. My work has also appeared in Lilith, The Texas Observer, The Jewish Daily Forward, and anthologies including The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry (Bloomsbury), The Women's Seder Sourcebook (Jewish Lights), and God? Jewish Choices for Struggling with the Ultimate (Torah Aura.) My downloadable Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah for Pesach has been used around the world, and with R' Jeff Goldwasser in 2014 I released a pilot edition of Days of Awe: the Velveteen Rabbi's Machzor for the Days of Awe.
I've taught courses arising from the intersection of the literary life and the spiritual life at the ALEPH Kallah; at many congregations around New York and New England; and at the inaugural week of Beyond Walls, a writing program for clergy of many faiths, at the Kenyon Institute.
Today, in addition to being co-chair of ALEPH, I serve as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel, a small congregation in western Massachusetts, which is affiliated with the Reform movement and is also part of the ALEPH Network.
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