by Haya Luftig
Rabbi Dr. Ayala Ronen Samuels was born and raised on Kibbutz Shamir in the Upper Galilee. As a graduate of the “Shomer Hatzair” movement, she had the benefit of a Zionist education that sanctifies the search for inner truth, social action and tikkun olam. These basic values have been her moral compass ever since.
Ayala graduated from Haifa University with a B.A. in Jewish Thought and Psychology (with a Teaching Certificate), and then completed a Ph.D. in Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. During her years in New York, Ayala was introduced to American Judaism and the challenges it faces, and learned to appreciate its cultural, social, and spiritual creativity.
Ayala’s experience as a formal and informal Jewish educator includes 10 years at Oranim Teachers’ College and various educational leadership training and curriculum development programs. She has also taught in informal Jewish education programs such as batei-midrash, “Rosh Hodesh” women’s groups, preparing for conversion, and others.
Ayala was the founding director of an innovative community program called “Olamot – Jewish Israeli Identity” in Upper Nazareth. There, she recognized the significant potential of Jewish culture as a bonding and community-building force. In that setting, Ayala learned to identify and nurture local leadership in order to promote social change. Her work at Olamot is what brought her to rabbinical studies at HUC-JIR.
Ayala initiated, founded, and is leading a new Reform congregation in Caesarea, “Tfilat HaAdam.” She seeks to make this congregation a driving force for personal and communal change in Caesarea and in the broader Israel society.