Learning the Ropes in Maine—The 2018 Rabbinical Fellows Program

What happens when top rabbinical students from several of the country’s best seminaries spend extended time working with Maine’s Jewish communities? We’ve just begun to find out…

The Center for Small Town Jewish Life recently launched its rabbinical student fellowship program with one summer fellow and two more for the upcoming academic year. Each fellow brings a fresh perspective, a spirit of innovation, and a different kind of rabbinic presence to Maine. Our year-long fellows will not only serve congregations in Augusta and Bath, but will also develop projects with state-wide reach.

Gallery: Maine Conference for Jewish Life

Maine provides an especially valuable training ground for the next generation of American rabbis. Our state’s rabbis and lay leaders are master entrepreneurs, experts at finding ways to do more with less. They have much to teach our fellows about innovation, collaboration, and the socioeconomic realities of small Jewish communities. Because small-town congregations lack large support staffs, these fellows will develop practical rabbinic skills in everything from teaching and pastoral care to budget management and cooking. Fellows will also experience the many ways in which non-Jews play important roles in sustaining vibrant Jewish life in diverse communities.

Our initial fellow, Leora Kling Perkins of the Jewish Theological Seminary, worked with Rabbi Erica Asch in Augusta and Rabbi Rachel Isaacs in Waterville this summer. She also taught in communities around the state and appreciated being able to encounter a wide range of synagogue cultures. At the end of her fellowship, Leora highlighted the opportunity she had to receive mentorship from several rabbis trained in multiple denominations, an uncommon experience given that students tend to intern in a single congregation.

Our first cohort of academic-year fellows includes Natalie Shribman of Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati) and Lily Solochek of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Natalie is a Bates alumna with a passion for Judaism and the outdoors who has served small-town congregations in the Midwest. Lily, who has taught at the Maine Conference for Jewish Life on several occasions, has extensive experience working with youth, teens, and young adults. These fellows will work primarily with rabbis Erica Asch and Lisa Vinikoor, respectively. They will have the opportunity to learn from one another and from experts on various dynamics that characterize small-town Jewish communities.

Interested in learning from one of these fellows? If you attend Temple Beth El in Augusta or Beth Israel in Bath, you’re in luck! If not, stay tuned on the Center website and Facebook page for forthcoming information about programs these fellows will offer in venues around the state. And, in any case, mark your calendars for this year’s Fall Shabbaton (Oct. 27–28) and the 2019 Maine Conference for Jewish Life (June 21-23), as our fellows will participate in both of these events.

– Rabbi David Freidenreich

 Associate Director, Center for Small Town Jewish Life