Rabbi Amy Eilberg, the first woman ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, reflects on her distinguished career as a chaplain, spiritual director, peace and justice educator and activist and her teachers who guided and called her to service along the way.
Rabbi Amy Eilberg is the first woman ordained as a Conservative rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She serves as a spiritual director, kindness coach, and peace and justice educator. She recently served as the Coordinator of Jewish Engagement for Faith in Action Bay Area, a multi-faith, multi-racial social justice organization in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to that she served as the director of the Pardes Rodef Shalom (Pursuer of Peace) Communities Program, teaching Jewish civil discourse to rabbis, synagogues and Jewish organizations. Her book, From Enemy to Friend: Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace, was published by Orbis Books in March 2014. She received her Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in 2016.
See Rabbi Eilberg interviewed in: And the Gates Opened: Women in the Rabbinate, a 2005 JTS retrospective produced on the twentieth anniversary of Rabbi Eilberg’s ordination.
During the interview, Rabbi Eilberg discusses her teacher Sylvia Boorstein. Here is an interview of Sylvia Boorstein on the program “On Being” with Krista Tippett. Rabbi Bernstein cites Sylvia Boorstein’s work in his 2019 Yom Kippur sermon, "Don't just do something, sit there! And other ways to confront mortality."
Rabbi Eilberg's mentor at Brandeis University, Rabbi Al Axelrad, will be recognized by readers of Mitch Albom's best-seller Tuesdays With Morrie, the ultimate "My Teacher" story. Dr. Morrie Schwartz, Albom's beloved teacher, was a sociology professor at Brandeis and was a friend of Rabbi Axelrad. After Schwartz succumbed to ALS, Rabbi Axelrad conducted his funeral in 1995. On the last page of Tuesdays With Morrie, Albom writes:
"The funeral was held on a damp, windy morning. The grass was wet and the sky was the color of milk. We stood by the hole in the earth, close enough to hear the pond water lapping against the edge and to see ducks shaking off their feathers.
"Although hundreds of people had wanted to attend, Charlotte kept this gathering small, just a few close friends and relatives. Rabbi Axelrad read a few poems. Morrie’s brother, David—who still walked with a limp from his childhood polio—lifted the shovel and tossed dirt in the grave, as per tradition.
"At one point, when Morrie’s ashes were placed into the ground, I glanced around the cemetery. Morrie was right. It was indeed a lovely spot, trees and grass and a sloping hill.
“'You talk, I’ll listen,' he had said. I tried doing that in my head and, to my happiness, found that the imagined conversation felt almost natural. I looked down at my hands, saw my watch and realized why.
"It was Tuesday."
Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie (p. 206). Crown. Kindle Edition.
For questions and comments, email Rabbi Ed Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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