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2023 Auerbach Launch and Ignition Grant Recipients

Reconstructing Judaism’s Auerbach Launch Grants and Ignition Grants support rabbinical students and rabbis in reconstructing the Jewish landscape to be more inclusive and engaging. This year’s winners point the way to a dynamic Jewish future.

Auerbach Launch Grants

Chloe Zelkha

Chloe Zelkha headshot

Chloe is a third-year rabbinical student at RRC. After years working as an organizer through JOIN for Justice and as the Fellowship Director at Urban Adamah, she turned to the work of chaplaincy, completing a CPE residency at UCSF Mission Bay Hospital and co-founding the Covid Grief Network. Chloe holds a B.A. in Religion from Carleton College and an M.A. in Education from Harvard University. 

 

Chloe’s innovative project Being With Grief will be a new, creative workbook for young adults (and beyond) who’ve experienced significant loss. Most grief materials are written with older audiences in mind, and lack cultural resonance for younger mourners.  Being With Grief will be part coloring book, part journaling prompts, part ritual guide, and will offer a low-stakes, self-directed way to engage with loss on your own terms. With this book, Chloe is committed to changing the way that young adults can combat grief and transform their lives. 

 

Nicole Fix

Nicole is a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Nicole is deeply committed to the expansion of Jewish engagement through the arts. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Monday Night, Nimrod International Journal for Prose and PoetryPost Road MagazineGo! Magazine, and Ritualwell

Nicole is a founder of Page 73 Productions, an award-winning New York City–based theater company. During her time in rabbinical school, Nicole has worked for the School for Creative Judaism and The New Shul and is currently an intern at the Center for Small Town Jewish Life in Maine. She was a T’ruah Rabbinical Student Fellow and an iEngage Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. She holds a BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. 

The Rabbinic Arts Company is developing a methodology to support mastery of text and mastery of craft. This methodology will be supported by real-time opportunities to develop and lead creative services and rituals, teach, perform, and showcase work. Artists will be able to support each other and will have a place where their Jewishness and art come together, without the need to give up one for the other. The group also meets for Rabbinic Art Salons, where artists create new art works from rabbinic texts. 

Auerbach Ignition Grants 

Rabbi Solomon Hoffman

Solomon is a 2023 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and is currently serving as Kehillah Synagogue’s Associate Rabbi in Chapel Hill, NC. He was previously the Rabbinic Leader of Mishkan Ha’am, and an educator and musical director at his childhood synagogue, the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore. He completed a year-long chaplaincy residency in the Mount Sinai Health System. While in rabbinical school, Solomon enjoyed researching early rabbinic attitudes toward music, and convening the RRC Music Collective. 

 

Solomon brings a diverse musical background to his prayer leadership and liturgical compositions. An interdisciplinary video for his setting of Psalm 147, “Harofei,” has been played in services around the world. He has shared his music as a guest prayer leader in several communities and has produced concerts and recordings for Reconstructing Judaism and the Music Together Sing Shalom program. His first album of Jewish music, Psalms for the 2020s, is in the works. Solomon lives with his partner Lauren in Carrboro. 

The Chapel Hill/Carrboro Jewish Music Circle is an open gathering that fuses singing, text study and meditation in a participatory environment. It seeks to build community among Jewish people and those interested in Jewish tradition who reside in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area. The gatherings will be held in local businesses and retirement communities to reach people who are not currently connected with Jewish communal institutions. 

Aya Baron

Headshot-of-Aya-Barron

Aya (she/her) is in her final year at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (ordination expected May 2024). She serves Congregation Beth Israel as a Rabbinic Intern and is a project consultant for Jewish organizations striving to integrate earth-based programming into their communities. She is currently supporting a congregation to design and launch a forest-based Hebrew School. Recently, she co-authored two self-guided earth-based Jewish practice guides: the Azazel Chapbook, a Yom Kippur mini-mahzor, and Tiny Tevet Treasures eBook with the Shamir Collective. Her studies build on six years of leadership at Wilderness Torah, an organization committed to reconnecting Judaism to its ecological roots.  

Aya lives on Lenapehoking land also known as Philadelphia, where she grew up. She can often be found watching the sunset from her roof, giggling with her 1-year-old, or crafting in her herbal apothecary. 

Upon graduation, Aya is launching Revaya, a series of earth-based Jewish offerings consisting of a project-consulting branch, ritual design and facilitation, and original programming. This grant specifically supports the creation of an earth-based Jewish adult B’nai Mitzvah cohort that will invite Jews of diverse identities who are seeking to deepen their Jewish learning such that they are empowered as full-participants in the Jewish communities in which they participate, and that they have a solid eco-Jewish foundation to build their own home-based Jewish practices. 

Léah Miller

Léah (they/them) lives in Philadelphia and is in their third year of rabbinical school at RRC. They’re in their second year as the rabbinic intern at SAJ: Judaism that Stands for All. Léah is a crafter—of mended denim, knit creatures, Judaica and jewelry, blessings, and theatrical lighting. When Léah’s not learning Torah or tying tzitzit, they’re stringing up fairy lights, piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, or getting covered in paint. They are so thrilled to dive even deeper into their love of textiles and Judaism with this generous grant. 

 

As a queer non-binary reconstructionist Jew, Léah is constantly thinking about how to engage with halakhic traditions. One of the ways they have embodied their practice is through engaging with the mitzvot of physical adornment like wearing daily tzitzit [fringes] or wrapping tefillin [phylacteries] and wearing a tallit [prayer shawl] when davening. As a crafter and mender, they feel passionate about helping people to feel more connected to material objects whether that’s through decorative adornment or through mending to avoid the landfill. This grant will fund a mini-series course that ties together text study, intentional artmaking, and self-reflection to empower individual Jews to make and use their own ritual garb, culminating in an in-person tallis-making gathering. 

Eli DeWitt 

Eli (they/them/theirs) is entering their final year at RRC, where they serve as Intern to the Department of Student Life, a liturgy skills tutor and an informal mentor to fellow queer and trans students and learners with disabilities. Prior to enrolling at RRC, Eli graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with their B.A. in American Studies and Creative Writing. They lived and worked in West Philly, as a teaching assistant in a neighborhood school and a childcare provider to local families and spent four years in various roles at Kol Tzedek: West Philadelphia Synagogue.

Eli was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina and returned to Durham in 2020 where they plan to stay for the long haul. Eli spends their days parenting their two-year-old kid, Misha, playing their part in a large multigenerational family and studying with their RRC classmates.  Eli learns and teaches in the lineages of queer+trans feminist, multiracial and multifaith movements for justice and they are a proud radical diasporic Jew and abolitionist. Most of all, Eli loves to learn Torah with people of all ages through art, storytelling and playing outside.  

In July 2023, with the support of an Auerbach Ignition Grant, Eli and their co-teacher Caitlyn organized and ran Jewish Farm Camp, a week of land-based Jewish learning, play, and community-building for 12 elementary-aged Jewish children. Jewish Farm Camp is the first program of an emergent Jewish education model in Durham, NC that centers the learning and well-being of all participants: young learners, their caregivers, teachers, and the land and community where the program is growing. Eli and Caitlyn are thrilled to have emerged from camp with a core group of kid-collaborators who will help shape the next phase of this exciting project. 

The Reconstructionist Network