A few months ago I promised a post about why I chose the Aleph rabbinic studies program. But once I started thinking about the question, it became clear to me that my answer was complicated. The reasons why I chose Aleph are many and varied, and redacting them into one blog post would probably result in something too lengthy to inflict on the blogosphere. So instead, I've decided to post bits of the answer, one at a time. Think of the posts in this periodic series as beads on a string; they go together, but they're also worth considering one at a time. Here's the first one.
I first considered the rabbinate the summer I was nineteen. My late adolescence had been spent at a Reform congregation, and I spent that summer as a counselor at a Reform summer camp, so the Reform seminary seemed like the obvious choice. Trouble was, by the time I finished college I wasn't sure it was right for me -- and I wasn’t sure what was.
Though each major denomination had qualities which appealed to me, none felt quite right. I could imagine the Judaism I wanted to help create: vibrant and vital, grounded in history but unafraid of change, capable of making Judaism's prophetic call to justice a universal one. The Judaism I wanted to dedicate myself to would involve my heart as well as my head, and my spirit most of all. But where was this Judaism to be found? I wanted a traditionalist passion for texts, matched with a progressive exegetical bent; I wanted the pioneering spirit of the Reform movement, the liturgical sensibility of the Reconstructionist movement, and the unabashed joy of Hasidic worship. How could I choose a seminary -- and, more, a denomination -- to live and learn in when my desires were so patchwork?
In hindsight, the answer's easy. With patchwork religious needs, one belongs in a place where different variants of Judaism are lovingly stitched together. The people who make up the Renewal community come from every conceivable Jewish background (and many non-Jewish ones, too). In the Aleph program, my desire to draw on what excites me from across the Jewish spectrum is not only tolerated, it's celebrated. We're expected to learn the breadth of Jewish tradition well enough to take up the holy work of carrying it forward and shaping it with our own hands.