A Rabbinical Sister Act

This piece was first published in The Times of Israel.

Rabbi Jordana Chernow-Reader, Rabbi Ilana Miller and Rabbi Mari Chernow (photo by Arlene Chernow)

Ilana Mills’ rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on May 13 was an auspicious occasion for her and her family, but it also marked an historic moment for the Jewish people. As Mills received smicha, she joined her older sisters Mari Chernow and Jordana Chernow-Reader in the Reform rabbinate. The Chernow women are currently the only set of three sisters who are Reform rabbis, and are likely the only three sisters who have ever all been rabbis of any denomination.

The sisters were raised by their parents, Eli Chernow, a retired Superior Court Judge, and Arlene Chernow, in Sherman Oaks, California. Reform Judaism has always been an integral part of their family life and individual identities. “Our mom has been working for the Union for Reform Judaism for 27 years in outreach and other areas of membership to build healthy and inclusive communities,” Mari noted. Their father serves on the URJ’s national board.

Mari, 40, is the eldest sister. She was ordained by HUC-JIR in 2003, and is the senior rabbi at Temple Chai in Phoenix, Arizona, where she lives with her partner. Jordana, 35, was ordained in 2010 and is director of lifelong learning at Temple Beth Torah in Ventura, California. She and her husband are the parents of a 2-year-old son. Ilana, 32 and newly minted as a rabbi, will be moving to Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband and their 2- and 4-year-old boys to take an assistant rabbi position at Temple Solel in nearby Paradise Valley.

And for the record, the sisters know of no rabbinic legacy in their family. They scored a hat trick in a single generation, without there having been any rabbis in prior ones.

The Times of Israel recently managed to get all three women together on the phone for a conversation about what it means to them to be a groundbreaking rabbinic sister act.

How is it that all three of you decided to become rabbis?

Click here to read the interview/conversation.

© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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