Change is in the Air! Part 1

A note from Reb Daniel

Canada Day has a special and personal significance for me. It was on the first of July, ten years ago, that I came back home after seventeen years in the States. Seven of those years were spent first, as the Rabbinic Director of ALEPH [Central as we call it] and then as its Director of Spiritual Resources. The ALEPH I left was in serious financial difficulty and had to divert its precious resources to its Executive Director, leaving insufficient funds to support the development of the spiritual resources which really are a crucial part of its purpose.

My first priority on returning to Canada was to incorporate ALEPH here, so that we could play an important role in these changes. You rose to the challenge by channeling your now tax deductible contributions through ALEPH Canada so that I could continue the work of developing resources. This has resulted in more books of Reb Zalman’s thought, including Renewal is Judaism Now! and Integral Halachah. We’ve added two volumes to the Siddur Kol Koreh series, a weekday siddur and a High Holiday machzor, continued cataloging the many sound files of Reb Zalman teaching, and helped to support our ordination students through the Miriam Fisher Scholarship. Canadians have also begun to play important roles within ALEPH, as evidenced by Rabbi Jeremy Parnes of Regina who has recently completed several years as chair of the ALEPH Central Board and Rabbi Dr. Laura Duhan Kaplan who has re-joined the Va’ad which guides the ALEPH Ordination Programs.

Ten years later, so much in ALEPH has changed for the better. While we have lost Reb Zalman, our founder and spiritual guide, we have gained many new rabbis, cantors, and rabbinic pastors. The ALEPH board has welcomed a new generation of leaders, OHALAH has grown to over 100 members from all parts of the North American Jewish world, and the financial situation has improved. We have a wonderful new relationship with the progressive side of both the Conservative and Orthodox movements, some of whom have joined our various faculties, as our work and commitment to Jewish spirituality is increasingly recognized and appreciated.

We in Canada are also preparing for a major transition. Recently, ALEPH Canada has become the home for two major ALEPH projects, the Integral Halachah Institute and the Sacred Foods project. We have grown from only one affiliated community (Or Shalom in Vancouver) to three (B’nai Or in Montreal and Beth Jacob in Regina), with at least one other coming. The board is now looking into linking our communities, developing a spiritual connection with First Nations, Canadian retreats, and supporting people in smaller communities.

It is now time for me to step down from the active administrative leadership of ALEPH Canada. I will continue to hold the title of Rabbinic Director and, more important, I will be the first director of the Integral Halachah Institute, whose purpose is both to continue organizing, transcribing, and disseminating Reb Zalman’s teachings and to go beyond by improving Kol Koreh and publishing the halachic writings of our students and rabbis.

While I will no longer be drawing a salary, our financial needs will remain at about the level they are now, and will likely increase. You have been crucial in sustaining ALEPH financially over this last decade. It is my fervent hope that you will continue doing so, allowing our new leadership to move ALEPH Canada into the next decade of its development.

It gives me great pleasure and satisfaction, knowing that Sherril Gilbert of Montreal will be assuming the position of Executive Director. Our board has also undergone a generational change, and I am so pleased that we have new as well as younger board members from Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, and Vancouver. And I am looking forward to a new ability to focus on the development of new resources which I hope will be my own modest legacy.

I thank you for your support over this formative and successful decade. I pray that we will all continue to support this amazing project in developing a Judaism which is true to its heritage and spiritually creative at the same time.

With blessings and gratitude.