The 40th Anniversary of my Ordination

The 40th Anniversary of my Ordination

On May 30, 1982, a very hot day in New York City, at the historic Temple Emanuel, I ascended the marble bimah and received my ordination from HUC-JIR, becoming the 46th woman rabbi ordained in America by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.  My smicha, the document of my ordination, spent most of its existence hanging on the walls of my office at TBS, along with the photo of me from that day.  They now hang in my home office in McLean.  As I look at the picture I realize how very young I was – just 25 years old – the youngest member of my class, as I had skipped the year in Israel, having lived there as a teenager, and entering HUC immediately after my graduation from Princeton in 1978.

Now, four decades after that historic event, my rabbinic journey continues as I have moved from building and growing our congregation to advising and visioning globally  for the rabbinate of the future.  Although much of American Jewish life has changed in the past forty years, the values that grounded my rabbinate have not:

  • I still firmly believe that highest common denominator Judaism (a Judaism of integrity, predicated on life-long learning/Torah, knowledge, mitzvot, communal obligation, observance, and standards) is the only way Reform Judaism and Reform Jews will survive for the future.
  • I still believe that being a “good Jew” is not the same as being a “good person,” although the latter is a necessity of the former.
  • I still believe that rabbis must be exemplars of Jewish values and role models of those values for young and old, the Jewish community, and the world at large.
  • I still believe in God, the importance of nurturing my personal relationship with God, and the Jewish people’s continued unique relationship with God as a central part of my Jewish identity, even as I respect the many expressions and definitions of the divine that exist among Jews, as has always been the case throughout history.
  • I still believe that the synagogue can continue to be the institution of Jewish survival, even as other institutions transform, fail, and disappear.
  • I continue to believe that innovation and change is the cornerstone of a healthy Jewish community, as long as it is based upon the values of God-Torah-Israel (peoplehood).
  • I hold fast that an open heart and an open door, really being there for one person at a time in hours of joy and sorrow is the foundation of good rabbinic care, and that as a community an open tent and a welcoming ethic is the only way we grow and thrive.

Thank you, TBS, for the 32 years we shared in a sacred bond out of the past 40 years of my being a rabbi.  This anniversary belongs to both of us.

Faithfully yours,

Rabbi Perlin