The Newly Ordained – Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC)

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Below is a list of this year’s graduates of RRC, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa.:

RRC 2013 Class

New RRC rabbis (L to R, front row): Lori Feldstein-Gardner, Leslie Hilgeman, Shulamit Izen, Alanna Sklover, Anne Feibelman (L to R, back row): Doris Dyen, Saul Oresky, Kelilah Miller.

Doris Jane Dyen found her way to rabbinical school after careers in ethnomusicology and cultural conservation. Her midlife choice of the rabbinate crystallized at Reconstructionist Congregation Dor Hadash of Pittsburgh, where she served as president and co-founded the religious school. During her six years at RRC, she held positions in the Philadelphia area as a chaplaincy intern and as a student rabbi at three synagogues. She also served as a cantor and service leader at congregations in the Pittsburgh area. She completed the Davvenen’ Leaders Training Institute as well as two units of Clinical Pastoral Education. She also is working toward certification as a mashpiah (Jewish spiritual director). In her vision statement, Dyen writes: “The soul-purpose that animates my life and my rabbinate is to nurture the best in every person and inspire people to treat each other with compassion and respect.”

Anne Fay Feibelman’s first career was as a film producer; her special interests were international assignments and documenting the stories of Holocaust survivors. While at RRC, she worked at the Abramson Center for Jewish Life, Paul’s Run Retirement Community, Martins Run Senior Living Community, Reconstructionist congregation Or Hadash, and Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Greater Philadelphia. She also completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. Feibelman served as RRC’s Multifaith Graduate Student Fellow. She received the A. Walter Socolow Writing Prize, the Reconstructionist Student Association Prize for Tikkun Olam in the Community, the Dorothy and Sidney Becker Hebrew Essay Prize (2009, 2010 and 2011), the Sidney Becker Prize for Study in Israel, a John Bliss Chaplaincy Scholarship and a Carpenter Internship in Hospice Chaplaincy. In her vision statement, Feibelman writes: “We are challenged to act from our hearts and have faith in the results.”

Lori Feldstein-Gardner, who holds degrees in theater, history and library science, loved working as the librarian at a K–3 girls’ school in New York City. Yet she realized there was something missing and returned to her childhood dream of becoming a rabbi. During her time at RRC, she has continued to be passionate about teaching. She has worked with children and teens for six years at Beth Tikvah B’nai Jeshurun and as education director at Reconstructionist congregation Kol Tzedek. She also served as a rabbinic intern at both Susquehanna University and West Chester University. In her vision statement, Feldstein-Gardner writes: “As a rabbi, I am excited to help Jewish people discover more access points to Judaism and, therefore, more ways to enter into God’s sukkat shalom (shelter of peace).”

Leslie Ann Hilgeman had a 15-year career as a journalist, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean. In each position, she sought to help guide and build community, and to bridge gaps between groups. At RRC she served many Jewish communities, including Reconstructionist congregations Temple B’nai Abraham in Bordentown, NJ; Am Haskalah in Allentown, PA; and Beth Israel in Media, PA. Other posts included Goucher College Hillel in Baltimore; the Abramson Center for Jewish Life in Horsham, PA; and Brightview Senior Living in East Norriton, PA. Passionate about interfaith and justice work, she spent a year organizing programs at the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia and a year organizing interfaith engagement programs through RRC. Hilgeman received the Ira and Judith Eisenstein Scholarship. In her vision statement, she writes: “I have come to lead using hokhmat halev—the wisdom of the heart—to instruct my work with individuals and communities alike.”

Shulamit Izen has focused her rabbinical training on the art of pastoral care, with internships at nursing homes such as the Abramson Center for Jewish Life and Paul’s Run Retirement Community. She completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Einstein Medical Center. During her residency at Einstein, she served an oncology and transplant unit and participated in a weekly trauma rotation. Her time at Einstein solidified her commitment to working at the intersection of pastoral care and social justice. She also has been deeply moved by her work at Germantown Jewish Centre and Reconstructionist congregation Mishkan Shalom, teaching a range of students and those she calls her “Rosh Hodesh girls.” Izen is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship. In her vision statement, she writes: “Master of the World, as I walk alongside those in moments of fragility and suffering, may I hold hope in the ability of each soul to find wholeness.”

Social Justice

Students learn with Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at RRC.

Kelilah Afrah Miller learned the spiritual values of community from her parents and grandparents, who modeled generosity and hospitality as well as a deep and abiding integrity. As an undergraduate at Boston University, she discovered her passion for the academic study of religion. She received a Ziegelman Scholarship to RRC, where she held internships that included para-chaplaincy in boarding homes for people with chronic mental illness; teaching Judaism to adults and children; and working for Kolot: the Center for Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies. She also served as the rabbinical intern at the Swarthmore College Hillel, and participated in RRC’s Transformative Text Project by assisting fellow students with classical text study in the College’s Bet Midrash. In Miller’s vision statement, she writes: “As a rabbi I aspire to bring people into sacred and illuminating connection with one another and with Torah.”

Saul Oresky began his career as a technical writer-editor, a job he maintained part-time throughout rabbinical school. Even before entering RRC, he had led Hillel kabbalat Shabbat services and served as a High Holiday cantor. An experienced teacher for all ages, in recent years, Oresky has concentrated on teaching teens; overall he has tutored more than 300 b’nai mitzvah students. While at RRC, he led congregations in Ocala, FL, and Bloomsburg, PA, and served as the student rabbi at Reconstructionist Congregation Mishkan Torah in Greenbelt, MD. He is a founding teacher of the Shoresh Hebrew High School, where he has taught several subjects for the last 14 years. In his vision statement, Oresky writes: “In my rabbinate I hope to be ever open to seeing the miraculous while remaining totally present to those I serve—so that I, like Moses, can stand on ‘holy ground’ and yet be wholly grounded.”

Alanna Michelle Jacks Sklover has a passion for experiential education. Before entering rabbinical school, she worked as a youth group advisor, spent three wonderful summers at Camp JRF, and worked for No’ar Hadash (the teen program of the Reconstructionist movement). While at RRC, Sklover cultivated her identity as a rabbi-educator through a variety of internships: at Reconstructionist congregations Or Haneshamah, Or Hadash, Mishkan Shalom, Beth Hatikvah, Shir Hadash, and at Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore. She also worked at congregations Beth Or and Germantown Jewish Centre, at Camp Ramah, and with RRC’s Transformative Text Project. In her vision statement, Sklover writes: “When it feels…that we cannot muster the right intensity or intention in our work, relationships and encounters in the world, may we recall that we have a Divine Partner (and, hopefully, human ones, too) to help us harness the energy to get the rest of the way there.”

ADVERTISEMENT: RRC is an innovative, progressive rabbinical school that also provides services to Reconstructionist congregations. Learn more about this year’s graduates.

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