A very wise student of mine taught me, “One must learn in order to live”. I have taken those words to heart as I have now accomplished one more education and spiritual goal - to become a rabbi.
In 1981 when I was Invested as a cantor I was one of less than 15 women cantors. I prided myself in my varied background in both songleading and classical singing. I loved being part of a decade of revolution in worship – particularly in the music of worship. But it was my work as a teacher that gave me the most joy.
My career as a synagogue cantor ended abruptly in 2010. At the age of 54 I had to be Nachshon and take a very scary next step. I applied and was one of 16 students accepted to HUC’s first Executive Masters in Religious Education program. And so it was back to school for me for two years of intensive reading and writing and, most importantly, transformation.
During these two years working on my Masters, I found my spritual home with Avraham Heschel and my educational home with Rachel Kessler. Like Heschel, my Judaism demands leaps of action rather than leaps of faith and my God is revealed in our deeds. Like Heschel I believe that learning is not so much about content, but about the struggle, and I believe that if we truly want to know God we must sharpen our sense of the human.
Like Kessler, when I teach, I want to honor the spiritual yearnings of my learner. I want them to feel trusted and safe, from wherever they are on their Jewish journey. I believe with all my heart that learning comes from a place of love and if learners love the learning, they will always want more.
And still, over the past five years, a little voice was always there, urging me to take that final step – reawaken my inner Nachshon and go for the trifecta. Because, lets be honest – it’s never too late. My dad wanted me to be a rabbi when I applied to HUC in back in 1975. But that’s not who I was then. It’s definitely who I am now.
And so I feel like Justify – like I just won the triple crown! Now, as a rabbi, a cantor and master educator, I bring my my expertise in teaching, worship, Jewish history and music to enrich each lesson, each ceremony, and the work I do with each person.
My life will not change. I will continue to teach privately, officiate at baby namings, Bar and Bat Mitzvah services and weddings and, sadly, funerals. I will still serve those who are unafilliated with a synagogue as well as those who are temple members, but prefer their children learn and become Bar or Bat Mitzvah with me.
I pray that I will be a blessing to the Jewish people and the world and deserving of the title