Introducing RUACH Community Health
RUACH Community Health is a new, national initiative for peace of mind, body, and spirit. We are housed in Hebrew College’s Innovation Lab, in partnership with IKAR.
Renewing Jewish life through movement and meditation studios rooted in Torah, and connecting seekers of all ages and backgrounds.
A Pathbreaking Partnership: IKAR, Hebrew College, and RUACH
IKAR is a leading-edge Jewish community, poised to construct a new home — a hub for justice — in the heart of Jewish Los Angeles.
Hebrew College is a national institution for Jewish learning and leadership, offering smikhah (ordination) for cross-denominational Jewish life in Newton, MA.
RUACH is a new, national initiative for reimagined community health.
Together we are reimagining Jewish learning, reanimating Jewish life, connecting seekers of all ages and backgrounds — and building the Jewish community’s first studios for movement and meditation in living memory.
RUACH is thrilled to partner with Hebrew College and IKAR in this reimagining of Jewish space, and in pioneering what a Beit Neshama (“House of Breath”) studio can be for the Jewish people, and beyond.Yaakov Ginsberg-Schreck, Co-Director of RUACH
As we open the first Beit Neshama at Hebrew College, gifts of all sizes make a difference, helping create accessible, high-quality, heart-centered learning. To support our work, please visit Hebrew College’s giving page and choose “RUACH Community Health” from the drop-down menu of programs to support. Gifts are tax-deductible and deeply appreciated. Todah rabah — many thanks!
More about RUACH
We know our tradition has tools for radiant health. And we know that of the millions of Jews in this country, across the denominational landscape (including the unaffiliated and disaffected), a great number would welcome the chance to feel more vital in their bodies and more at ease in their minds. The question is: how do we build Beit Neshama, a new kind of Jewish space, in a way that lifts our spirits while honoring our roots?
Thankfully, our ancestors faced similar questions. Recounting the history of the Amidah, the heart of Jewish prayer, the Talmud asks whether the blessings grew out of historical roots, from the time of Abraham and Sarah, or whether they were a novel custom, created after the Romans destroyed the Temple. The Amidah: inherited, or new?
The answer — both. “The ancestors established the blessings, and the rabbis put them in the place of Temple offerings” (Berakhot 26b). This teaches: deep roots enabled the rabbis to draw new life — to revitalize tradition — from the powerful winds of change.
Surely, today’s world calls out for the same creativity. From polarization to environmental alarm, we are witnessing change at a scale unprecedented in living memory. To weather these storms with skill, we need a Judaism that cares for the entirety of our being. A Judaism that gives people the space needed to breathe deeply, repeatedly — to feel held, secure, and open to new possibility. As far back as the Garden of Eden, humans were animated by the breath. Or, as the Talmud says: “Just as the Holy One fills the whole world, so the neshama breath-spirit fills the whole body.” Now it’s time for the breath, observed intentionally across traditions, named as “God’s candle” in the Hebrew Bible, to meet the Amidah in the place of Temple offerings, at the center of Jewish life.
As we reanimate ancient tools for radiant health, RUACH is guided by the model of our ancestors, and by two core principles:
Rootedness in Tradition — Shorashim
Embracing Change —Ehyeh
In five years, RUACH anticipates:
- A national teacher-training curriculum in embodied Jewish practice, with trainings at IKAR and HC’s flagship Beit Neshama studios.These immersive trainings will give teachers the tools they need to guide embodied Jewish practice. Balancing playful creativity with a systematic approach to the study of traditional texts, these trainings will reanimate ancient Jewish understandings of body and breath, making them accessible once again to our community as a whole.
- A growing scholarly discourse on the body in Jewish thought. A brachah, or blessing, is associated with bending a knee, or berech. The tailbone, or luz, is likened to a seed that bursts forth with new life. Yaakov’s Ladder is a vision of the spine, the ancient Rabbis maintain, and the nefesh is our living bloodstream. Our great Torah commentators have been immersed in the body’s idioms since the Talmud — but in recent centuries, for multiple reasons (themselves fascinating and not fully explored), our scholarly self-conception as Jews has aligned with the life of the mind, marginalizing or outright ignoring the body’s central place in our intellectual history. At Hebrew College, RUACH is seeing early stirrings of a renewed field for scholarship. Along with IKAR, we believe that on-the-ground studios will catalyze, and be catalyzed by, this reawakening of roots.
- An emergent constellation of partner studios across the denominational landscape. To nurture the growth of a Beit Neshama studio network, RUACH is delighted to partner with IKAR and Hebrew College in developing:
— Template tools for sample daily/weekly studio schedules, financial modeling, a program manager’s guide, and a digital library of Jewish texts on body and breath.
— Additional support, including consultation, virtual administrative workshops, site visits, and facilitation of cross-studio learning network.
40 teachers trained in RUACH’s 200hr curriculum.
3,000 participants (including 1,000 Jewish teens and young adults) engaged monthly in virtual or in-person “Beit Neshama” (“House of Breath”) studio space.
2 brick-and-mortar studios are open for practice (IKAR and HC), with 4 more studios in development in other Jewishly concentrated cities.
8 “pop-up Beit Neshama” locations at partner organizations nationally.
80% financial self-sufficiency through studio revenue.
5 academic papers published on the mind-body connection in Jewish life.
Matia Angelou, Rabbinic Pastor
Beit Neshama Instructor
Matia Rania Angelou is a poet, ritual artist, healer, and teacher of meditative chant. A graduate of the Indigo River SpiritSong Teacher Training program, and certified practitioner of Applied Resonance Therapy, she blends these healing techniques with Jewish meditation to create vibrational immersion for healing through sound. Matia was co-founder of the Jewish Healing Center of New England. She has helped organize Jewish healing conferences and healing services at local synagogues, and has participated as an energy and sound healer for patients in hospitals and in their homes. Matia will be leading contemplative practices and healing circles at Beit Neshama.
Julie Leavitt, DMin, BC-DMT, LMHC
Beit Neshama Instructor
Julie Leavitt teaches movement as expression of emotion and devotion, creating time and space for holy listening inside the sacred vessel of our bodies. She received the title of Doctor of Ministry from the Graduate Theological Foundation in 2014, with a doctoral project entitled, “Jewish Spiritual Direction and Embodied Spirituality.” Alongside her work as a body-centered psychotherapist, she has taught Movement as a Spiritual Practice locally and nationally in synagogues, retreat centers, conferences, and universities. Julie will be leading movement practices at Beit Neshama.
Evelyn “Ducky” Punch, MSc.
Beit Neshama Instructor and Co-Director of RUACH
Evelyn (Ducky) Punch is a born-and-raised, pasture-grazed Irish lady who grew up without a movement studio in sight. Blessed with the great outdoors as a playground, her love and awe of nature developed into a fascination with the majesty of the human form. After completing degrees in biochemistry and neuroscience, she followed the trail to Yoga, which revealed a peaceful state of being. She soon stepped into teaching and never looked back — and now, more than twenty years later, she’s grateful to be living the joy that is the practice, the learning, the healing, the revelations and ultimately the transformation. Ducky teaches through an anatomical lens, with the intention to create a safe and comfortable, lighthearted yet deeply focused environment for students to explore their inner world. Ducky will be offering Yoga classes at Beit Neshama, in addition to serving as RUACH Co-Director.
Yaakov S. Ginsberg-Schreck
Co-Director of RUACH
Yaakov is a ritualist academic interested in the intersection of community organizing, Torah, and the neshama breath-spirit. He graduated magna cum laude from Yale with a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies, concentrating in cultural theory, and in 2019 completed his 200-hour Yoga teacher training in Los Angeles (One Down Dog Studios) under Ducky Punch’s mentorship. There with LA’s palms he learned that breath is spirit, across traditions, and that none other than our teacher Moses organized the people around expansion of the breath. Now in his fourth year of training in Hebrew College’s rabbinical program, Yaakov splits his time between Hebrew College’s Beit Midrash, in his student-cap, and helping build Beit Neshama in the tichel-headwrap of Co-Director of RUACH.
RUACH is proud to announce two new partnerships with Jewish organizations nationally.
Temple Israel of Boston
Year of Pilot Partnership Programming, “Zmanei Nefesh: Seasons of the Soul”
Generating Scalable Templates for Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) and Sun Cycle gatherings
University of Arizona Hillel Foundation
“Pop-Up Beit Neshama”
Designing Short-Term, High-Quality Jewish Studio Space
Rabbi Adina Allen
Co-Founder & Creative Director, Jewish Studio Project
Rabbi Laura Bellows
Director of Spiritual Activism and Education, Dayenu
Rabbi Batya Ellinoy
Upper School Director, Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley, MA and Somatic Jewish Educator
Rabbi Shoshana Friedman
Director, Artist Beit Midrash of Hebrew College & Jewish Arts Collaborative (JArts), and Rabbinic Ambassador, Dayenu
Rabbi David Kasher
Associate Rabbi, IKAR
Rabbi Daniel Klein
Dean of Students, Hebrew College
Rabbi Adam Lavitt
Director of Program Design and Facilitation, Jewish Studio Project
I am honored to give to RUACH to uplift the wisdom of our minds and our bodies. In challenging times, I believe in the resilience of humanity and Jewish tradition and in the power of Beit Neshama to bring shalom — wholeness and peace — to our communities.Rabbi Batya Elana Ellinoy, Upper School Director of Temple Beth Elohim, Member of RUACH's Rabbinic Advisory Circle
Co-Director of RUACH & Hebrew College Rabbinical Student
RUACH Community Health is a Hebrew College fiscal sponsee planning to pursue independent 501(c)3 status. Our full proposal, including our financial model, fundraising goals, and visions for growth, is available upon request.