Sunday, June 07, 2009

Welcoming New Colleagues

Every year, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion ordains its current class of seniors. It elevates them from their status as "student rabbis" to "Rabbis." All of their training, practice, work, study, learning, and preparation culminates in a ceremony that bestows the title upon them. It is moving, inspiring, and truly memorable.

This year, there has been a lot of media attention on the ordination ceremonies that took place in Cincinnati. A great deal of attention has been bestowed upon a great "first" for the College-Institute, the ordination of the first African-American woman as a rabbi. It was a historic moment for the school, for our movement, for our people.

In many ways, however, it reminded me of the truly marvelous stories that each of these newly-minted rabbis bring to our school, our movement and our people.

I was honored to be present at the ordination ceremonies this year in Cincinnati. At that time, I witnessed the ordination of prize winners and poets, musicians and teachers. They served congregations in Ohio, North Dakota, Indiana, Louisiana, Florida, Michigan, Kentucky. They worked in nursing homes, Hillels and hospitals. They taught children and adults. Some were on the rabbinic path since childhood. Others came to it later in life. Judaism bloomed in their lives early and later. They are both parents and children, pray-ers and do-ers. They were surrounded by loved ones and friends, teachers and mentors. One was the child of a rabbi, one the brother. Their family members stood for their ordination and blessed them personally, as I did for my husband when he was ordained. In a truly touching moment, the father-rabbi took his own tallit and placed it on the shoulders of his son, literally passing on the mantle of trust and love and responsibility.

Each time I attend an ordination (I think I've been at 8), I honestly expect it to be boring. The service is, undoubtedly, long. But each year I am surprised when I am not bored at all. This year, I was instead inspired as I watched the faces of the students as they each stood on the right-hand side of the Bima first, waiting their turn, and then, as their name was called, ascending. And then, watching, as the same student received his or her blessing, a moment usually accompanied by trembling and tears. Finally, the student stood on the left-hand side of the Bima, witnessing the ordination of their next classmate, before descending back to the pews. The ritual repeated, with great care and deliberation, until each had their turn. There is great decorum in Cincinnati, we were reminded by our President, and there is no cheering. But inside we are all shouting, we are all dancing with joy, that one journey is ending and another beginning. Each year we are reminded that the distance from the right side of the Bima to the left side is short - but oh so long.

Each of the newly-made rabbis is worthy of our praise, each is worthy of our celebration. It was truly an honor to be present and to celebrate with these students who I am now honored to call rabbi and colleague.

The Ordination Class of 5769/2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio
Mazel tov to Rabbis
Elizabeth Bandyk Bahar
Katie Bauman
Rachel Crossly Saphire
Lisa Delson
Debra Dressler
Tami Elliott Goodman
Noah Fabricant
Jennifer Frenkel
Marshal Klaven
Anna Levin
David Reiner
Alysa Stanton
Howard Stein
Elizabeth Wood

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Phyllis, I just saw this - how extraordinarily beautiful!! Thanks for the thought. Much love,