A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, majoring in French and Art History, with a Masters in Teaching from Wesleyan University, Rabbi Magal spent seven years in Israel working at the Israel Broadcasting Authority national television station and as a licensed tour guide for adult and youth groups. She met her husband Itzhak in Israel on Kibbutz Maagan Michael during her work study Ulpan program. They spent several years living in Jerusalem and when their two children were small, they moved to Los Angeles where Alicia continued her work in the Jewish community.
Rabbi Magal developed interactive programs and museum tours as Museum Educator at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles; worked as Program Director for Temple Emanuel, a large Reform synagogue in Beverly Hills; and served as Rabbinic Intern for Kehillat Israel, a large Reconstructionist synagogue in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. She received rabbinical ordination in 2003 from the Aleph Jewish Renewal Rabbinical Program and from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles. Rabbi Magal served as spiritual leader for Makom Shalom, a Jewish Renewal congregation in Chicago before moving to Sedona in 2006 where she currently serves as rabbi of the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley.
Rabbi Alicia Fleissig Magal is the author of the book, "From Miracle to Miracle: A Story of Survival", a biography of her mother, Nika Kohn Fleissig - the story of a young Jewish woman's survival during the Holocaust, and the impact of her dramatic story on her daughter growing up. You can order a copy of her book here.
Rabbi Magal is involved in several interfaith programs such as Mitzvah Day and the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, and has appeared as guest speaker at local churches and community groups.
To contact Rabbi Magal, email her at RabbiMagal@jcsvv.org
If you enjoyed my blog, you might also wish to read my mother, Nika Kohn Fleissig's blog:
2014 PhilantHRopist of THE YEAR
This year's Philanthropist of the Year award recipient is Rabbi Alicia Magal of the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley. The Philanthropist of the Year Award recognizes individuals who consistently commit time and financial assistance to worthy community causes and nonprofits. Rabbi Magal offers opportunities to explore cultural traditions and connect with people of diverse faiths in Sedona and the Verde Valley.
Red Rock Sparks
Torah Commentaries by Rabbi Alicia Magal. These words of wisdom and insight are offered as Red Rock Sparks - sparks of holiness and joy from the Red Rock Rabbi as she interprets the Torah portion of the week. Rabbi Magal presents her thoughts on each week's Torah portion. During the service she expands from her notes, and explores new ideas in addition to what she had prepared. The following archived notes give a sense of what was said, but it still is better to be there in person.
Miketz (Genesis 41:1-44:17)
Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)
Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10)
Vayakhel & Pekudei (Exodus 35:1-40:13)
Rabbi Magal's First Day Drash: Rosh Hashanah 5775 Day One
Robb Gordon's Second Day Drash: Rosh Hashanah 5775 Day Two
March 2013 - Rabbi Magal's D'Var Torah published in Academy for Jewish Religion - CA: Hiddur Mitzvah - Holiness Beyond Ceremonial Objects
Just got around to reading some older emails--- your drash was very beautiful and meaningful around the notion of Chiddur Ha Mitzvah. Went to two Seders where the preparers went to great lengths to make the table beautiful and to make the food attractive and to enhance the ceremonial aspects. Your drash illuminated that process for me in retrospect. That we sanctify the time/ the process / not the object is also very intriguing...
Rabbi Cheryl Weiner, PhD
I thought you would like to read this reaction by a colleague of mine to a drash I wrote a few weeks ago about Hiddur Mitzvah - enhancement and beautification of the commandments - that appeared in our alumni online commentary shared each week. The idea I made explicit is that the care in preparing and beautifying the table for Passover, for instance, does make the Seder more meaningful to the participants... Just one of many examples. This is why I make sure we decorate the Bima and Ark for Shavuot with flowers and greens, etc.etc.etc.... Every effort shows our intention to make the program/meal/holiday celebration special.
Rabbi Alicia Magal
What a wonderful women's seder on Monday. Really lovely. I haven't been to one in ages and this just hit the spot. I loved the Haggadah and the rendering of the blessings in the feminine. You have such an amazing spirit and I am so moved by the men and women who, inspired by you and their Jewish studies, are on the road to converting. They are fortunate and likely do not know that the joy and ruach emanating from you is not always the rabbinic norm.
ARticle In the Arizona Jewish Life Magazine About Rabbi Magal and the JCSVV
Red Rock Rabbi
Rabbi Alicia Magal is doing things the Sedona way.
By Kevin Whipps, AZ Jewish Life, January 2012
A few months back, I (the author of this article) drove down to Tucson to talk to Esther Leutenberg, who would become our cover story for the November issue. We talked for an hour about her family, her son and the life she's led since her son passed. During our conversation, she told me how she celebrates the holidays. "Actually, there's an amazing temple in Sedona," she said. "We go there for the holidays. Stay for the week and go for the holidays, it's amazing. Woman rabbi. And it just sings to me."
Leutenberg spent the next 10 minutes singing the praises of this mysterious Sedona synagogue, and while we spoke I jotted down a note to myself: "Look up Sedona synagogue with a woman rabbi."
And that's how I discovered Rabbi Alicia Magal.
Hollywood [via Israel] to the Rocks
Sedona is one of those places that everyone has to experience at one point. It's the place where postcards are born, full of beautiful red rocks and pine trees as far as the eyes can see. The people of the town are quite spiritual themselves, and you don't have to travel too far deep into the town to find yourself kneedeep in crystals, psychics and other '60s memorabilia.
This is the home of Rabbi Alicia Magal, the rabbi at Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, a synagogue painted a rusty red to match the surrounding area and topped with a nicely weathered copper roof. But this hasn't been her home forever; she's only been in Northern Arizona since 2006. Prior to that, her path wasn't pointed toward religion.
In the mid-1970s, Magal was a French teacher in Connecticut and decided to visit Israel for just a few months. As she puts it, "I went for six months, met my husband the first day and came back seven years later, married with two kids." Upon her return, now with family in tow, they headed to Los Angeles so her husband, Itzhak "Ike" Magal, could work. He was a production sound mixer in film and television, working on shows such as "Hill Street Blues." He even received an Emmy nomination for his work on the Hallmark channel's "A Painted House." It was a good life for the family.
Over time, Magal found herself teaching her kids about, and involving them in, the Jewish community. But in her mid-40s she started to feel a calling toward a higher purpose. In 2003 she was ordained, and shortly thereafter she found herself the rabbi of a Renewal congregation. The only problem was, it was in Chicago. "And so for three years, a little more than three years, I was going back and forth every two weeks between LA and Chicago," she explains.
The trek was tolerable for Magal, but unfortunately, the congregation couldn't offer her a full-time position. When her husband retired and she was offered that full-time gig in Sedona, they packed up their home and moved east to Arizona.
Sedona is a small town, with only a few ways to get in or out. Even though resorts and hotels abound in this tiny town, it's easy to get lost in the feeling that everyone could be your friend. It's something that Magal experiences daily. "I go to the post office and get a hug, and go to the grocery store and someone says, 'Oh, rabbi, I've been meaning to call you.' It's like my office is the whole city."
What is it that makes Rabbi Magal so different? Leutenberg says, "What I love about Rabbi Magal is before every prayer she just tells you one or two lines about what this prayer means. Because when you read the translation you don't know what it means, it's just translated." Magal works this way because of the diversity of the Jews who live in the Sedona area. "It is extremely varied," Magal says. "We have everything from very cultural, secular Jews, to Conservative and even Orthodox Jews." This leads to her to try to have a service that's as open and welcoming as possible, using whatever means necessary. "I have to weave together all these strands and I try to do that at every service, explaining and translating anything in Hebrew, not assuming they know what it is, and [offer] my own take on meanings. They're not just..." She pauses. "We don't just recite prayers, we kind of go inside them," she explains.
It means that what she does is whatever she can do to get the point across--to really address what a prayer means, not just the superficial content that you might get from a basic translation. "I use story, I use dance, I use art," Magal says. "It's a very holistic way of presenting a heritage rather than just rules or laws or history." It means that going to one of her services will likely be a different experience than could be found at other synagogues.
The Right Time and the Right Place
The timing was right for Magal to move to Sedona and continue her path. Her children were grown up and had moved on, her husband had retired and she was ready to dedicate her life to something meaningful. And where better to do it than in such spectacular scenery? "One wants to be spiritual here, so I tap into that feeling through our Jewish tradition," Magal says. "My mission is to bring joyful, juicy Judaism to people who may not have experienced it. I feel very lucky to serve as [the] rabbi of this community."