Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan, PhD
I am a lifelong student and teacher of Jewish wisdom, and have always loved to contemplate and explore the natural beauty of my homes including the Texas Hill Country, Israel, and Northern California, and many other places on planet earth. My newest adventure is exploring the Hudson River Valley and the great Northeast while serving as Rabbi of Pleasantville Community Synagogue.
Several summer sessions at the original Elat Chayyim Retreat Center were very formative to my own soul and my path to becoming a rabbi. I wish that everyone could have the chance to go on a retreat and spend time in nature. But for those times you can’t get away, or want to prepare yourself for the next opportunity (or just appreciate your own backyard more), I created this site. I am also thinking of those who have enjoyed the spiritual expansion of a retreat and need more tools to integrate those insights into their daily life.
Also, I noticed that I myself spend a lot of time online, a habit which is not always aiding my personal growth or nourishing my soul. Sometimes the internet is a great tool, enabling me to learn new things and connect with friends, but too often I’ve caught myself wasting precious moments of life.
“There is no Sleepy Hollow on the Internet, no peaceful spot where contemplativeness can work its restorative magic,” writes Nicholas Carr in his important book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
While Wellsprings cannot replace the serenity of a physical retreat center, I want it to offer a real alternative to the usual online experience, in the form of a website where you can learn to nurture your soul as you engage with fellow spiritual seekers.
As a mother and now a grandmother, I’m also concerned with caring for our planet Earth for future generations. I hope that contemplating the sanctity and beauty of creation will inspire people to guard and care for our shared global home.
My educational and professional background: I was ordained in the ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal Rabbinic Program, and received my PhD in Hebrew Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in Rabbinic Literature and Culture. I have worked many years in Jewish education and serve as the rabbi of Pleasantville Community Synagogue in Westchester County, New York. I previously led Congregation Beth Israel in Chico, California and Congregation Beth Am in San Antonio, Texas. I have taught on the faculty of California State University, Chico, and Texas Lutheran University, and currently teach for two Rabbinic seminaries, the Academy for Jewish Religion and the ALEPH Rabbinic Program. When my five children were young, I wrote The Jewish Parents’ Almanac, published by Jason Aronson.
For more on my professional and academic background, here is my CV.
I am a student of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (Reb Zalman) of blessed memory, the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement. He was deeply committed to the future of life on earth and his legacy inspires my work.