The Aleph Kallah was held in Redlands, CA, June 27-July 3, 2011.
In order to afford to go, I volunteered for a bunch of work study. A large part of this was to drive a van between LAX and Redlands before and after the Kallah, about 80 miles each way. I flew out on the first flight on Sunday morning, June 26. I arrived at 9:50 am, but had to wait for the first van to pick me up and take me to Redlands. It was scheduled for about noon, but didn’t show up until well after 1:00. When I arrived in Redlands and did a quick registration and checked into our room, then did a run to LAX and back. I did the same the next morning. Traffic was a little more challenging on Monday, but at least I was able to use the “car pool lane” on the way back to Redlands.
Paula and Alizette had spent a few days with Lilly, P’s sister-out-law, and arrived in Redlands while I was driving. We then had to go buy a few things for Alizette which I had neglected to pack for her camping trip. A just turned 13 and she is joining the Bahira teen group for a three night camping trip in the mountains, leaving Tuesday morning and returning Friday to be with us for Shabbos. With all this I missed the opening ceremony of Kallah, which I always enjoy. We all settle in. The food is generally pretty good, if not too exciting. It is great seeing many old friends and meeting some people whom I only know on the Internet.
There are many interesting choices for morning dovenin each day, though I just doven by myself (on the patio of the dorm) and eat breakfast so we can both go to the sendoff ceremony for the teens. Alizette is reassured that among the 15 or so teens, three others were with her at Eden Village Camp last summer.
I am taking two classes each day, for four days. In the morning I am taking a class in Jewish Musical Shamanism with Richard Kaplan. This included sharing and discussion on how music affects both our own spirituality and how we interact with others. We also learned a number of songs which Richard has collected from around the world, from both Jewish and other sources. At the end of the week we performed a few of them for the Kallah. In the afternoon David Seidenberg taught a combination of teachings from Rebbe Nachman of Breslav about serving God with dance together with actually doing various dances, ranging from traditional Hassidic dances to modern dances.
Evenings were full of talent, often with a choice of several programs.
I was also working as sort of a tech assistant to the sound folks, though they didn’t have much for me to do. Monday night featured many folks from Jewish Renewal on the West Coast, headlined by Eli Shirim Lester’s Rhythm and Jews Band. Tuesday night I was at the Musical Coffee House with many wonderful performances. The same could be said for the Cabaret on Wednesday night. Thursday night was Hebrew Kirtan with Andrew Hahn, always wonderful. We slipped out at 10 for a retirement ceremony for Susan Saxe who has kept Aleph together for 21 years, and then a more private gathering.
The teens returned mid-day on Friday from their 3 days camping in the mountains. Then there were separate mikvahs for women and men in the swimming pool (not totally kosher but very spiritual). This was followed by what has become a Kallah tradition, a Secred Shabbat Walk, visiting various stations in preparation for entering sacred time. There was a choice of two services. We went “Through the Gates of the Heart” led by Rabbis Shefa Gold and David Ingber. Then we entered the building where all the large performances and gatherings had been held, transformed into a fabulous banquet hall, a fantabulous Shabbat dinner, followed by a bunch of us singing for another hour.
Saturday morning there were several choices of services. I went to the one led by my teacher Richard Kaplan (see above) together with Rabbis Diane Elliot, Elliot Ginsberg, and SaraLeya Schley, a combination of traditional liturgy, chants we had learned in class, interspersed with dance, stories, and other teachings. Lunch was followed by free time, a performance by the various children’s programs, and a choice of workshops. I chose one which touched on some health challenges that I have. In the evening havdalah (closing the Sabbath) was followed by a fund raising auction and performances by various groups which had prepared during the week, including our musical shamanism group. Sunday morning was one more service a closing circle. I helped load a van and a bus, then drove another van trip to LAX. I think the week was meaningful for all three of us on our own level.