Yael Schonzeit (Yael illah)
Peace and blessings upon you and yours.
I am a devotional singer, Kohenet Hebrew Priestess, scholartivist* and practitioner of ritual medicine. I currently live in Lisjan/Ohlone territory, known as the SF Bay Area, where I priestess at the intersections of music, spirit, healing, justice and ancestral memory.
I am also an animist. This means that I endeavor to live in a way that affirms that life is a web of relationships, that all things have a spirit and that humans are just one group of people within an entangled and interdependent network. At the core, my life is about reckoning with and awakening to what it means to be woven into this interconnected web of being and to compassionately hold space for that reckoning and remembrance to unfold within others.
I am a third-generation Jewish/Hebrew American, born and raised in New York City, land of the Lenape people. My recent ancestors are Yiddish-speaking Jews from the Pale of Settlement (e.g. Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Belarus) with older origins also throughout Northern and Southeastern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Levant.
I support people to cultivate relationship with their ancestors and to nurture intimacy with the natural world in service to personal, familial, and cultural healing. I guide those I work with to connect with the places they inhabit, to the Divine, to themselves and to the greater mysteries - toward a sense of belonging and purpose.
I sing and pray in multiple spiritual traditions and offer sound healing, intuitive voice work, and devotional music to individuals and communities. I also craft drums and leads drum-birthing ceremonies in the way passed to me by my teacher Yolanda Martinez.
While working and praying within multi-religious contexts, I am grounded in my spiritual lineage by birth. Inspired by the gifts and challenges of my Orthodox Jewish upbringing, I am dedicated to cultivating spiritual community and practices that are dynamic, embodied, feminist, earth-reverent and counter-oppressive. I am devoted to embodying a Jewish praxis that is relational and liberatory, centering the experiences, narratives and resilience of those who have been historically marginalized from mainstream Jewish spaces.
My training is ongoing and has not been linear. My organic apprenticeship of healing modalities and the ceremonial arts has spanned Western herbalism, plant spirit medicine, energy healing, conscious dance/movement, Anusara yoga and reiki. I am a student and lover of Islamic Sufism and have spent time immersing in Brazilian earth-honoring traditions and ceremonies. I have completed training in Dr. Daniel Foor’s method of ancestral lineage repair, and I am currently in a mentorship phase toward certification as a practitioner. I received smicha (ordination/transmission) as a Kohenet Hebrew Priestess in 2018 and my work for over three years on staff with the institute has helped shape the emergent organization and movement. I have a Bachelors in Social Work from New York University and am currently pursuing a Masters in Divinity at Starr King School for the Ministry, a multi-religious counter oppressive theological seminary at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.
I offer gratitude to be woven into a vibrant web of ancestors, mentors, family, friends, artists, activists, organizers, healers, visionaries and troublemakers who are devoted to the heart of this world and who hold me accountable to my values and inspire me greatly- I am because of you.
*This term was coined by one of my teachers Sheikh Ibrahim Baba / Dr. Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajaje (may his secret be sanctified) and speaks to the multiple and interwoven identities of scholar, artist, and activist.