ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal Awarded Grant for Safety, Equity Training

A group of rabbis sit in front of a large projector at an ordination ceremony.
An ALEPH ordination ceremony in January | Photo by

While some Jewish organizations look to make their spaces safer through hardened security, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal is addressing safety differently.

The SRE Network (Safety, Respect, Equity) announced on Feb. 21 the eight recipients of its $300,000 grant for Jewish nonprofits to address harassment and discrimination in the workplace. ALEPH, a Philadelphia-based organization that serves as a hub for Jews aligned with the Jewish Renewal movement, was among the recipients.

With the awarded $47,000 over two years, ALEPH will provide training to ordination program administrators and faculty to “fortify skills around power dynamics, interpersonal behavior, and psychologically safe culture,” according to a press release. ALEPH will also collaborate with its affiliated network communities on building inclusive spaces and policies.

The trainings will address sexual harassment in the workplace, structural pay or opportunity inequities and discrimination. In religious and spiritual communities, addressing psychological safety is particularly important because of the intimate nature of the discipline.

“Our communities are also workplaces, and our seminaries are also workplaces,” ALEPH Executive Director SooJi Min-Maranda said. “The professional and personal tend to get blurred in these close spiritual environments that foster feelings and emotions.”

ALEPH partners and network members, like many other Jewish leaders, often work with many organizations in a more insular community. Therefore, if one individual is discriminatory or violent, their impact is likely to spread to multiple organizations, posited Elana Wien, SRE Network’s executive director.

Jewish people are not exempt from workplace discrimination, despite having minority status.

“Issues of gender-based harassment, discrimination, other forms of harassment and discrimination — it’s prevalent across our entire society, and the Jewish community isn’t immune to that,” Wien said.

Created five years ago, SRE Network, which consists of 160 organizations, bases its mission on Jewish values.

“We do have a really vital tradition that brings tremendous wisdom and opportunity to do this work around ethics in a deeper way,” Wien said. “So we can pull from that tradition and that Jewish wisdom around teshuvah, around making repair, to really ground this work.”

Though SRE Network has created grants since its 2018 launch, the latest round of grant funding was the first directly informed by member input and was available to network members who had demonstrated potential to expand.

For ALEPH, which previously received an SRE Network grant, the new grant will provide additional, in-depth training, as well as opportunities to receive training from SRE Network’s specialists.

Psychological safety, respect and equity are important tenants to ALEPH, the steward of the Jewish Renewal movement. ALEPH, according to its website, pushes for a Judaism that is “joyous, creative, spiritually rich, socially progressive, and earth-aware.”

However, Min-Maranda clarifies that Jewish Renewal is not a denomination of Judaism, but rather a philosophy.

“It’s an approach to Judaism,” Min-Maranda said. 

Until 2018, ALEPH operated out of a physical location in Mount Airy but is now entirely virtual. However, many Jews connected to the movement are still based in the area, which is also the host of many of ALEPH’s seminars.

ALEPH was founded by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in Philadelphia in 1978 and first called B’nai Or, which later became ALEPH. The goal of the movement was to reinvigorate Jews, encouraging participation and drawing on the joys of the Chasidic movement, while also advocating for socially progressive values.

“The idea of it being a movement alludes and evokes a spirit of movement, that we are in motion — in motion and in co-creation,” Min-Maranda said. “That we are constantly changing, adapting, responding, while being deeply rooted in Jewish tradition.”

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