Our 2019 Chaplaincy Graduate

Dina Batsheva Kuperstock

“To be a chaplain is to offer myself in service and companionship, opening spaces where people, regardless of origins or identities, can recognize the value, beauty, and resilience of their spirits. It is a privilege to invite others to share deeper meaning.”

Thesis: “First Soul, Second Voice: A Ritual Approach to Advance Care Planning” (Click here to watch Dina present her thesis)

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Our 2019 Master of Jewish Studies Graduate

Revital Somekh-Goldreich

“As an artist-cum-scholar, with a specialization in Interfaith Relations, I teach the Bible and commentary thereon with a creative approach, leading both Jews and non-Jews to mine them for wisdom — in the areas of identity and spirituality, relationships, society, and politics — toward building a more harmonious world.”

Thesis: “Artists and Art-Viewers as Biblical Commentators: Art-Midrash for Homes and Public Spaces as a Link in the Chain of Transmission” (Click here to watch Revital present her thesis)

A Conversation with… Rabbi Neil Blumofe

Rabbi Mel recently sat down with Rabbi Neil Blumofe (’09). Rabbi Blumofe discussed his experience with Judaism in Austin, Texas, where he lives and works and how he brings music into work.


If you’d like to help support AJRCA’s work in training Jewish leaders to transform their communities into places where all Jews can grow toward spiritual wholeness and well-being, please make a contribution here.

San Diego Tragedy

A Message from our President, Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, PhD

We are heartbroken to learn of the devastating hate-crime shooting which took place at the Chabad of Poway. Our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in San Diego, to their families and everyone affected by this terrible tragedy. We stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who mourn the painful loss of Lori Gilbert Kaye, and pray for the speedy recovery of the esteemed Rabbi Mendel Goldstein, Alon Peretz and 8-year old Noya Dahan.

The attack on a Shul during the day we recite Yizkor, during the joyous holiday of Pesach where we highlight gratitude for liberation and pray for a redeemed world, the juxtaposition with Yom Hashoa, the horrible attacks on houses of worship throughout the world, including Mosques, Churches and Synagogues leaves a devastating stain on our world, on our souls.

Our Sages teach us that on Pesach we include Maror, a symbol of bitterness along with the other symbols of liberation. It is to assert that we are not a naïve tradition which pretends that evil does not exist in our world; instead we are taught that the rhythm of life contains both tragedy and joy. And yet we take the Maror and make a Hillel sandwich signifying that bitterness can be tempered with the sweetness of Charoset as we believe that through our efforts and faith in G-d, we have the power to build a better reality through our holy deeds. The same message appears in this week’s Torah portion ‘Acharei Mot-Kedoshim.’ After the devastating death of Aaron’s two sons, and after a poignant moment of Aaron being stunned (‘Vayidom Aharon’), the Torah teaches that our response to tragedy is to take on a greater commitment to Kedusha (holiness). We never give in to despair, but we redouble our efforts to carry out our mandate to be a ‘Holy People’ and elevate our world to the heights it is capable of achieving.

We must confront the horrific reality of hateful online forums, the breeding ground for inspiring acts of violence, we must oppose the myth of ‘White genocide perpetrated by the Jewish people and people of color’. We must acknowledge that we live in a world where prejudice, intolerance, White Nationalism, anti Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, etc. are rising. Thus we must bring the ethical values of our tradition to the forefront, to join with brothers and sisters of all faiths in concrete action to oppose these forces of evil, to act with love, to use our strength to bring forth justice in all corners of our world and to be ‘healers’ in this sickened period of our existence.

I know that if we join together with our full, committed effort, the world of Kedusha will ascend and the values of Pesach will be our new reality, as our tradition promises at the end our Seder. On a practical level (and a necessary mitzvah of tzedaka), our dear student and resident of San Diego, Cantor Cheri Weiss, shares that The Jewish Federation of San Diego County and the Jewish Community Foundation are currently creating a fund to meet the immediate physical, psychological and spiritual needs of the victims and those impacted. The funds will also be used to support ongoing efforts to help the community heal from and feel safe despite these despicable acts. You can donate by visiting www.jewishinsandiego.org/donate and writing ‘Chabad of Poway’ in the comments section.

At our school building, we remain vigilant and join with UCLA Hillel in contact with the Jewish Federation and law enforcement to make sure that our security needs are being met.

We all pray for healing, for strength to assist in concrete deeds of tzedaka and Chesed in the coming days as we learn of and create opportunities to bestow Kedusha on our world, and to persevere with humility, compassion and faith in the days ahead.

Sincerely,
Rabbi Mel Gottlieb

A Few Minutes With…Our Students!

We recently collected lots of great information from our students and faculty and will be sharing it over the coming months in blog posts like this. We hope you enjoy hearing from members of our community in their own words!

Today we’ll be sharing some responses from a variety of students across our programs to the following question:

 

“What drew you to AJRCA?”

 

“It is the only Cantorial school on the west coast. I looked at no other schools. Continuing on with Rabbinical studies at AJRCA was an obvious choice.”

Cantor Cheri Weiss, Cantorial Alumna/
Current Rabbinic Student

“AJRCA had been recommended by Jewish spiritual leaders. The combination of “keva” and “kavanah” at the Academy, along with the caliber of administration, faculty, and students sold me. I had seriously considered applying to Aleph, Hebrew Union College, and Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. My age, distance from my aging parents, and other factors which affected my decision to follow-through with my application to AJRCA.”

Randy Lester-Wilson, Current Rabbinic Student

“AJRCA is an incredible combination of elements that make it unique among seminaries and graduate institutions worldwide. It is trans-denominational; it is flexible in terms of Zoom/hybrid learning and classes 3 days a week (which allows students to work while in school); and rabbinical, cantorial, chaplaincy, and masters students have the opportunity to take classes and learn with one another.”

Current Cantorial Student

“I wanted a trans-denominational school which was reflective of my personal approach to Jewish life today.”

J. Hyams, Current Rabbinic Student

“I liked that the schedule was limited and that it did not require a year in Israel, which would not have been feasible at this time in my life. I like that it is transdenominational and not governed by one denomination. I think that allows for a well-rounded education.”

Current Cantorial Student

“I needed a school that would make it possible for me to continue my pulpit work and go to school, and I was drawn to the school because it is not affiliated with any movement. I believe this is where progressive Judaism is going.”

Current Rabbinic Student

“AJRCA’s transdenominational bent and a student body that is relatively more mature than the average MJS program.”

Current MJS Student

“I had heard good things about AJRCA and knew it was considering the hybrid program, which it has since implemented. I needed a program that would have limited time required for me to be away from my family and congregation.”

Current Cantorial Student