Photo Credit: Daniel Beck

Rachel Barenblat

b. 1975

Current City, State, Country

Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA

Birth City, State, Country

San Antonio, Texas, USA


Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, named in 2016 by the Forward as one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis, serves as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel of the Berkshires and is a Founding Builder at Bayit: Building Jewish, a pluralist spiritual innovation incubator.  In addition to several poetry chapbooks she is author of six book-length collections of poetry: 70 faces: Torah poems (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011), Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013), Toward Sinai: Omer poems (Velveteen Rabbi, 2016), Open My Lips (Ben Yehuda Press, 2016), Texts to the Holy (Ben Yehuda, 2018), and Crossing the Sea (Phoenicia, 2020.)  Since 2003 she has blogged as The Velveteen Rabbi, and in 2008, TIME named her blog one of the top 25 sites on the internet. Her work has appeared in periodicals including LilithThe Texas Observer, and The Jewish Daily Forward, as well as a wide variety of anthologies. She has taught courses at the intersection of literary life and spiritual life at the Academy for Jewish Religion (NY), the  Academy for Spiritual Formation, the National Havurah Institute’s winter retreat and Summer Institute (where she was digital Liturgist In Residence in 2020), many congregations around New York and New England, and Beyond Walls, a writing program for clergy of many faiths at the Kenyon Institute. She lives in western Massachusetts with her cat and her son.

What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?

Most of my poetry touches on Judaism either explicitly or implicitly. Most recently, Crossing the Sea (Phoenicia, 2020) moves through the year of saying kaddish for my mother. Texts to the Holy (Ben Yehuda, 2018) is a collection of contemporary psalms. I’ve written a volume of Omer poems, a chapbook of Elul poems, a book of Torah poems following the weekly parshanut cycle.

I’m the convener of Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group, and have had the privilege of editing various collections of Jewish poetry and liturgy for Bayit, among them From Narrow Places and Beside Still Waters.

Much of my non-poetry writing is also Jewish in focus. From the Velveteen Rabbi blog (where I have been writing regularly since 2003) to years of freelance journalism and book reviewing, I approach everything through a Jewish lens.

Published Works

Poetry, Full-Length
Crossing the Sea (Phoenicia Publishing, 2020)
Texts to the Holy (Ben Yehuda Press, 2018)
Open My Lips (Ben Yehuda Press, 2016)
Toward Sinai: Omer Poems (Velveteen Rabbi Press, 2016)
Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia Publishing  2013)
70 Faces (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011)

Poetry, Chapbooks
See Me: Elul Poems (Velveteen Rabbi Press, 2015)
Through (Velveteen Rabbi Press, 2009)
chaplainbook (Laupe House Press, 2006)
What Stays (Bennington Writing Seminars Alumni Chapbook Series, 2002)
the skies here (Pecan Grove Press, 1995)

Edited Works
From Narrow Places: Liturgy, Poetry and Art of the Pandemic Era (Bayit: Building Jewish, 2022)
Beside Still Waters: A Journey of Comfort and Renewal (Bayit: Building Jewish and Ben Yehuda Press, 2019)

Author Site

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading

Current Title

Rabbi, Congregation Beth Israel; Co-founder, Bayit: Building Jewish; poet, blogger, mom


Williams College, B.A. in Religion
Bennington College, M.F.A. in Writing and Literature
Rabbinic ordination, ALEPH
Spiritual direction ordination, ALEPH

Subject Matter