I love to dance, draw, write poems, sing, and stand on the earth.As a rabbi andteacher, a somatic movement therapist and a spiritual director, I seek to inspire people to become clearer channels for Divine Light through awareness and movement practices, chant, and nuanced interpretations of Jewish Sacred text. I enjoy creating safe and nurturing spaces for those who wish to explore spirituality individually and in community.
Once upon a time, a midwestern girl graduated from the University of Michigan and went to New York City...to dance! She spent her mornings stretching, whirling, and leaping on oiled wood floors in studios and lofts from midtown to Chinatown, and her afternoons in rehearsals or lugging her big shoulder bag filled with leotards, choreographic notes, and half-eaten cream-cheese-and-jelly sandwiches up and down subway stairs on her way to and from a string of parttime jobs. She acted at the Roundabout off-Broadway, flapped her wings in an Actors Studio production of Aristophanes' The Birds, and learned to drum and talk at the same time while teaching modern dance classes. She toured the land with the Phyllis Lamhut Company and later shared her passion for performing in dances that she and her friends had made. One summer she went to San Francisco, where she learned to fly and to tote 180-pound men on her shoulders. In France she taught ballet dancers to wag their tails, tap-danced in a dada cabaret production, and learned to sing four-part harmony in Alsatian.
In 1977 she--who is me--discovered Body-Mind Centering® (BMC), and my life began to heal and change in surprising ways. I moved to Minneapolis, and, teeth chattering in the sub-zero wintery weather, I taught college students, and then other folks, to fall in love with the floor--to creep, crawl, slide, and roll. I made dances to jazz, to Bulgarian folk music, to words, to silence. I studied to become a certified teacher and practitioner of BMC® with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, the work's creator, and taught the work in training programs in Massachusetts and California, in Budapest and Bourgogne, in Montréal and Pittsburgh. In 1986 I opened a private movement therapy practice in my living room, and since then I’ve worked one-on-one with dancers, writers, educators, mothers and babies, trauma survivors, cancer patients, and other folks who want to stop worrying and learn to love their bodies.
One day I suddenly understood that to balance all my running around, I needed to sit very still for awhile. I began practicing Buddhist mindfulness meditation. On my cushion, I touched the pain of lifetimes, the soft heart that had been clenched inside my ever bending, extending, twisting dancer's chest. Slowly, meticulously, I laid bare layers of myself I'd buried...the young Jewish girl who'd read about the Holocaust and whose bones ached with the suffering of the generations; the young woman who'd traveled to Israel, laid her head against the ancient stones of the Temple Mount, and sobbed. I looked around, and there were Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z"l, Rabbi David Wolfe-Blank z"l, and the folks of Jewish Renewal coming to greet me. Then somehow, suddenly, I found myself entering the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, a member of the first rabbinical class of a pioneering, trans-denominational seminary in Los Angeles.
For six years of study I stubbed my toes in the cracks between worlds, on the one hand the ancient male worlds of esoteric books, hidden languages, unspeakable histories, yearnings, disappointments; on the other, the rapidly morphing, present-day spiritual marketplace, where holy books appear on-line, hasidic rebbes Skype, and women are everywhere. Women's voices, sensibilities, presences, changing everything. Everything up for grabs.
And in the middle of all this, I was hijacked by love. I met my husband-to-be, Rabbi Burt Jacobson, at an ALEPH Kallah, where I was teaching the art of embodied lament, he was teaching the Ba'al Shem Tov on love and compassion. After my ordination in 2006, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to be with Burt, who happened to be the founding rabbi of Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, one of the largest Jewish Renewal synagogues anywhere. Learning to rabbi, learning to love, I was catapulted into three years of service as spiritual leader of Berkeley’s Aquarian Minyan, Reb Zalman's very first Renewal community. Old leftists, hippies, crazy ecstatics, just plain crazy, we truly prayed together. And cried, danced, wrangled with, loved one another. Then it was time to move on and out--to once again round out this body of work with the work of the body, connecting keter (crown) with malkhut (root); bringing through the kabbalah for this moment by digging deep in silence and bursting into song; growing in a community of fellow-journeyers the strength, the compassion, the conviction, and the joy that this tremulous moment commands.
I am Rabbi Diane Elliot, and I love to dance, draw, write poems, sing, and stand on this earth.
What others are saying about Rabbi Diane's work.... Rabbi Diane Elliot is an extraordinary teacher and guide who gently and profoundly brings us into the World of Spirit. She opens pathways to the Divine through the mind-body-spirit connection, using movement, dance, prayer, meditation, chant, and deep, sweet learning. Holiness flows her very being, and enters our hearts and souls as she takes us journeying beyond the Beyond. —Rabbi Dr. Wayne Dosick, spiritual guide, The Elijah Minyan, and author of Living Judaism, Soul Judaism, and 20 Minute Kabbalah
Rabbi Diane brings special magic to services she leads. Moving effortlessly, passionately, gracefully between worlds – as rabbi, dancer, shaman, kohein, priestess – she leads us to the experience of the Divine Presence that touched our ancestors in ancient rituals, and channels it into contemporary rituals where that same Presence can touch us today. —Aryae Coopersmith, Author, Holy Beggars: A Journey from Haight Street to Jerusalem, Founder of One World Lights
Rabbi Diane Elliot has been and continues to be a major inspiration for me in my work. Her subtle and keen awareness of the Divine intelligence inherent in our bodies has helped me to step onto the path of holy embodiment, which is the path of Presence, which is the path of Wholeness. Rabbi Diane's teachings remind us that we must be fully present to receive God's Presence... and she shows us how. —Rabbi Shefa Gold, Director of CDEEP: Center for Devotional, Energy and Ecstatic Practice
Few Jewish teachers are as gifted, yet as humble as Reb Diane Elliot. Whether she is dancing, praying, singing, reciting poetry, or leading Torah study, her grace and wisdom allow the divine presence to shine through. Her gift of spiritual transparency and her ability to sense and move energy in a group, make it possible for those in her presence to touch, taste, and embody Spirit. —Estelle Frankel, psychotherapist, spiritual director, author of Sacred Therapy.
Rabbi Diane Elliot is a deep and gifted teacher whose presence is a marvel of congruence. The grace of her movement, the beauty of her voice, the tender truth of her wisdom—all come into focus in a way that illuminates, delights, and touches both heart and mind. I recommend her without reservation. —Arlene Goldbard, President, The Shalom Center and author, New Creative Community
Diane Elliot has been a profound resource in my life. As a therapist, especially with tools developed from Body-Mind Centering® work, she gently helped me find skills, insight, and courage to delve deeply into my life issues and bring healing, balance, and freedom. I've deeply benefited from the combination of Diane 's approaches. She has profoundly helped me heal and integrate my own perceptions of body, mind, emotion, and spirit. —Jan Gist, Professor of Voice and Speech Old Globe Theatre/University of San Diego Graduate Theatre Program
Rabbi Diane is an amazing facilitator. I have attended several of her workshops, services, and community gatherings. One of the most memorable was a morning movement service in which we embodied putting on tefillin. It was an uplifting opening to a tradition I had not experienced in such a deep soul and body way. —Rhonda Mason, LMFT, co-founder Havurah Shir Ha-Yam, San Diego
Rabbi Diane Elliot is an utter pleasure to take a workshop with. Her sincerity, clarity, and personal integration of her teachings is a source of healing and inspiration from which participants may deeply draw and greatly benefit. —Hazzan Richard Kaplan