Ellen Bernstein is the advisor for identity and praxis at Hampshire College. She also serves as the campus rabbi.
Ellen began her spiritual journey as a young person, seeking solace and delight in nature. Nature was her temple. Her assimilated family was unaware of and untouched by the richness of Jewish life. Ellen explored a range of philosophical and spiritual traditions as a teen and college student, and studied Conservation of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley. She found her way to Judaism when living in Berkeley, after experiencing a Passover seder with the Aquarian Minyan. Intrigued, she began studying the biblical “portion” of the week with a new friend and teacher, and was amazed to find ecological wisdom in the Bible.
For years, Ellen Bernstein sought a Jewish institution that integrated the natural or environmental dimensions of Judaism. Not finding one, she founded the first national Jewish environmental organization, Shomrei Adamah, Keepers of the Earth in 1988. Over the years she has explored the dimensions of land and nature in Jewish tradition and has written several books on Jewish and biblical perspectives on nature. She is deeply interested in aesthetics and the relationship between aesthetics and ethics. For Ellen, creativity and spirituality are indelibly bound.
Ellen is particularly interested in the intersection of the secular and the sacred, and finds the spiritual alive in the material and natural world. The Hebrew word for God, literally translated, means “being” or “existence,” and Ellen finds holiness in all dimensions of life. As advisor for identity and praxis, Ellen sees her work as opportunity to engage members of the Hampshire community in an exploration of the questions: Who am I? and How am I to live?
Ellen is also a certified life coach and loves helping people find meaning and purpose in their lives. She is delighted and honored to serve the Hampshire community, and welcomes conversation with all students, faculty, and staff, and in particular, anyone who is navigating difficult places in life, or seeking deeper meaning and fulfillment.
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