By Erica Slutsky | Communications Manager
Tell us a bit about your background, education, and training. What led to you Temple Emanu-El?
I’m a rising third-year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion) New York. In between undergrad and rabbinical school, I worked in development for the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform Movement’s rabbinical professional association. The CCAR was the perfect place to learn about the Reform rabbinate before starting at HUC! Last year, I taught fifth grade religious school at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue with an original Parashat HaShavua curriculum and led High Holy Day services at Rikers Island.
I’m thrilled to join Temple Emanu-El this year, to get to know this remarkable congregation that is both historic and always-innovating, to learn and pray with the Emanu-El community, and to grow as a future rabbi under the guidance of the Temple’s extraordinary clergy team.
Tell us more about your connection to Judaism and Reform Judaism.
I grew up at a small Reform congregation, Temple B’nai Chaim in Georgetown, Connecticut. I’ve always had a strong Reform identity. I love our Movement’s egalitarianism and inclusiveness; the tradition of informed choice and non-coercion; the history of lay empowerment and lay ownership of Judaism; our rich musical tradition; Reform’s core belief that Judaism is joyful and meaningful and ought to feel that way; and so much more. I love chatting about Reform history and the future of our Movement if anyone ever wants to talk about this!
What led you to studying to become a rabbi at HUC?
I see Judaism as a powerful counterbalance to a trend toward extreme individualism and social atomization. Judaism provides spiritual meaning, intergenerational community, ritual, the world’s best texts, a brilliant liturgical tradition, and so many paths to access God. Synagogue life holds us in meaningful community with people who are different from us socially, politically, racially, etc. I think that’s an essential thing for us as individuals and for our country. I wanted to become a rabbi to help Jews feel ownership of Judaism and to help build the kind of rich Reform Jewish life that I believe in so deeply.
What are you looking forward to at Temple Emanu-El?
So many things! But right now, what I’m most looking forward to is meeting everyone. So, please, come say hello! I’m excited to get to know the smaller pocket communities within the Temple and learn how Emanu-El operates, how everything fits together. I’m also excited to get to know the Temple’s unique minhag hamakom, including praying from Emanu-El’s original prayerbooks. This congregation has a really special intentionality about preserving Reform liturgical legacy while meeting the spiritual needs of today’s Jewish community. I’m thrilled to be joining Emanu-El for so many reasons!
What will your role at Emanu-El involve?
I’ll lead Shabbat and holiday worship with clergy, be on the sermon rotation, and teach Shabbat morning Torah study once a month. I’ll help out with the Young Members Circle and support Young Professionals’ outreach. In the Religious School, I’ll advise some b’nei mitzvah students on their d’vrei Torah, teach the 7th/8th grade Tikkun Middot curriculum, and support teen programming – I’m particularly excited to work with teen leaders who are preparing to lead Religious School tefilah! That’s what we know for sure, but synagogue life is dynamic, and I’m looking forward to helping out in other areas as needed!
Tell us more about what life is like for you at school and in New York City.
I live on the Upper West Side, where I’m a member of my local community garden, the West Side Community Garden – come visit, especially during tulip season! And I belong to Congregation Rodeph Sholom. At HUC, my favorite classes have been Bible (Pentateuch and Prophets) with Dr. Adriane Leveen and Rabbinic Texts (Mishna and Tosefta) with Rabbi Dr. Alona Lisitsa. In my free time I like to explore New York City, watch HGTV home renovation shows, and visit increasingly niche museums.