Posts Tagged ‘rabbis’

When The Rabbi Is A Proud Single Mom

March 21, 2014

This article was first published in The Times of Israel.

Rabbi Lisa Gelber and her daughter. (Courtesy of Diva Communications, Inc.)

Rabbi Lisa Gelber and her daughter. (Courtesy of Diva Communications, Inc.)

More than 40 years after the Reform movement ordained the first American woman rabbi, the majority of US Jews have come to accept women as members of the clergy. Like most women today, these rabbis tend to wear many hats and juggle multiple identities, often that of clergy, wife and mother.

Increasingly, however, some female rabbis are remaining single, but still donning the mantle of motherhood. And they make no apologies for doing so.

“There is nothing wrong with how I live my life,” says Rabbi Lisa Gelber, one of the subjects of “All Of The Above,” a new documentary film about women rabbis who have become single mothers by choice that will air on ABC affiliates nationwide beginning on March 23.

Click here to read more.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

It’s Not Easy Being A ‘Rabbi’s Daughter’

January 15, 2013

This article was originally published in The Jewish Daily Forward.

Having a rabbi for a father can be tough, something that filmmaker Racheli Wasserman knows all too well.

Having a rabbi for a father can be tough, something that filmmaker Racheli Wasserman knows all too well.

When we think of children who carry the burden of having famous parents, we often think of the offspring of movie stars or politicians. But in the Religious Zionist sector of Israeli society, being the child of a prominent rabbi comes with some very heavy baggage.

Filmmaker Racheli Wasserman, herself the daughter of such a rabbi, carries this load, and decided to unpack some of it by making “The Rabbi’s Daughter.” The short documentary, which Wasserman made as a student at the Ma’aleh School of Television, Film & The Arts in Jerusalem, is an intimate and sensitive portrait of three young women who not only live in the shadow of their revered fathers, but who have also made the fraught decision to leave the religious life behind and forge new paths for themselves.

“The Rabbi’s Daughter” has caught the attention of Israeli film critics and the Israeli movie-going public alike. In December, it was awarded the best student film prize for the Israeli Documentary Filmmakers Forum, and earlier last fall it won the award for the best short documentary at the 2012 Haifa Film Festival. In 2011, the film was awarded the Aliza Shagrir Prize for outstanding documentary. Exceptionally for a student film, “The Rabbi’s Daughter” has been viewed more than 45,000 times online.

The half-hour film follows three young women as they interact with their rabbi fathers and expose their previously private thoughts and feelings about their complicated relationships with them. Tamar Aviner, daughter of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City (and who recently declared that women should not engage in politics or run for seats in the Knesset), is a free-spirited artist and sensitive soul who struggles with being thrust into the public eye. Still clearly a spiritual person, Aviner has adopted a hippy-like peripatetic existence, living in a van and working as a street artist.

For Tamar Tzohar, daughter of Rabbi Yoram Tzohar, dean of Ulpana Bnei Akiva Kfar Pines (a residential religious girls’ school), and for Ruth Katz, daughter of Rabbi David Bigman, who heads Yeshivat Ma’aleh Gilboa, the struggles are more about religious observance. Tzohar, a talented photographer and graphic designer, feels she has no way to connect to her father and seems to linger on the periphery of her family’s religious life. On a visit to her father’s school, which she once attended, she notes the irony of her father’s serving as a father figure for thousands of girls, while she — his actual daughter — feels so distant from him.

Katz, married to a young man named Motti, confronts her parents for the first time about the disapproval she senses from them about her choice to move away from religious observance. She tearfully tells her parents how frustrating it is for her and her husband to feel they have to hide details of their everyday life from them.

Click here to read more and view the film’s trailer.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

A Rabbinical Sister Act

May 27, 2012

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.