Spiritual Healer and Explorer
Moshe Raphael Halfon has been in the vanguard of spiritual and musical exploration for over twenty-five years. He has taught courses on Middle Eastern music and dance, meditation, Kabbalah, Biblical psychodrama, and men's spirituality in North America, Brazil and Israel. He is a Reiki Master healer in the Usui lineage with a private practice in stress management, grief, chronic illness, couples, and men's issues in Long Beach. In 1999 he founded Am Or Olam - People of the Eternal Light - a non-profit 501c(3) healing center which promotes holistic healing, Jewish spirituality, the arts, and now, prison outreach as well. He teaches the HandDance™ workshop on drum, dance and chant for adults and children. In 2001, he arranged, produced and sang on "Let There Be Light," his album of Jewish healing chants used by healers and communities worldwide.
Rabbi, Cantor, Chaplain
Reb Moshe quips that he has "played every position on the rabbi baseball team," with a long resume serving pulpits, public institutions, and non-profit organizations from the West to East and back again. Since 2006 he has been Jewish Chaplain at the California Institution for Women, a minimum security state prison in Corona, California. From 2004-2006 he was a hospice chaplain, and still performs this holy work of guiding people of all backgrounds through illness and death with dignity. He has been a pulpit rabbi, cantor, school principal, Hillel director, day school teacher, and psychiatric chaplain in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and back in California, to which he returned in 1993. He has also taught special education, and worked with high school students with Asperger's Syndrome and autism in the LA Unified School District. Before founding Am Or Olam, he was Associate Rabbi of Temple Israel in Long Beach, and from 1999-2005 he was Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies teaching World Religions at Cypress College in Cypress, California. He has been influenced by Eastern philosophies, feminist thought, the men's movement, psychology, and other new spiritual thought. He practices Tai Ch'i (yang form), Hatha yoga, and mindfulness meditation, as well as studying and teaching Kabbalah. He was ordained and received a Masters in Hebrew Letters (1986) and Doctor of Divinity - Honoris Causa (2011) from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, and also completed a Masters degree in Educational Psychology and organizational process at Temple University. He learned with his honored Rebbe, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (z"l - of blessed memory), and served as Reb Zalman's music specialist at retreats in the US and Brazil. Moshe received a BA in Jewish Studies at UCLA, where he studied modern and ethnic dance, Yiddish and Hebrew literature, and group dynamics. While there he founded the Westwood Bayit Jewish housing co-op, edited Ha'Am student newspaper, and co-founded UCLA's first Jewish Arts Festival. During those years he also served as a teacher, counselor, and song leader in LA synagogues, day schools and summer camps.
World Musician, Guitarist, Percussionist
Born in Los Angeles to a Sephardi father and Ashkenazi mother who were avid folk music fans, Moshe began studying guitar and singing at age 13. One year later, he began publicly performing and leading songs in schools, camps and clubs for groups of all ages. He was influenced by the musical styles of Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Woody and Arlo Guthrie, Joni Mitchell, Trios Los Paraguayos, and others. (He was a folk purist who ignored rock music until his 30's, but he now loves and plays rock and jazz as well!) After a year studying in Israel at Machon Institute and on kibbutz, Moshe immersed himself almost exclusively into Jewish music for the next fifteen years. He led innovative Jewish ensembles in LA and Philadelphia, and was among the first performers to infuse Israeli music with Latin rhythms! He speaks fluent Hebrew, Spanish, Yiddish and Portuguese; sings in Ladino, Russian and Arabic, and plays African, Brazilian and Middle Eastern percussion. He has studied and performed with Margalit 'Oved (Yemenite dance); Bobby McFerrin and David Darling (improvisation); Joel Ewing (voice and music theory); and percussionists Eytan benSheviya (Latin), Sa'adoun al-Bayati (Arabic), Babatunde Olatunji and Ayo Adeyemi (Nigerian), as well as with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. His instruments include guitar (folk and electric), Appalachian dulcimer, and world percussion such as doumbek (Middle eastern), djembe (African), frame drums, riq (tambourine), and assorted Brazilian percussion. Moshe's current passions include running 5K races and his backyard organic garden. (And yes, he is actively seeking a woman to be his life partner).
"Music is a healing art. When I lead people in song, meditation, dance or drumming, one of my intentions is to help them transcend the differences or boundaries we humans imagine exist between Soul, Heart, Mind and Body; between nations; between tradition and creativity; male and female; Divine and human; intellect and intuition. This is my task...." © 2010 Moshe Halfon