The Center for Small Town Jewish Life’s rabbinical student fellowship program offers a unique twist on the classic small-town student pulpit. Each fellow works in a diverse and vibrant community large enough to support its own clergy but small enough to crave the energy and excitement for building Jewish life that rabbinical and cantorial students bring. Fellows receive intensive mentorship from a multi-denominational team of rabbis who have chosen to establish their careers in Maine’s small Jewish communities. They also learn about the distinctive dynamics of small-town Jewish life in sessions with scholars and communal professionals.
Over several visits across the year to a single congregation, fellows lead services, teach children and adults, and establish meaningful relationships with congregants. In addition, fellows offer programs in Jewish communities across the state, including at Maine’s colleges. These include programs related to a project with potential for lasting impact that the fellow selects and executes in consultation with local rabbinical mentors.
The insights and leadership strategies that fellows gain are relevant in Jewish communities of all sizes. 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 rabbinical 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.
Alex is a fourth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Boston. He serves as the clergy leader of Congregation Ahavas Achim in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife Mac. After graduating from Cornell, Alex spent two years in the Peace Corps in Peru, through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and then spent the years before rabbinical school managing vegetable farms in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Although he grew up in New York City, small-town life is much more Alex’s speed, and he is excited to be a Center for Small Town Jewish Life rabbinical fellow and to be working with Temple Beth El in Augusta.
Eliana is a third-year rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Boston, and teaches Talmud at Teen Beit Midrash, a pluralistic and inclusive learning space for teens. She spent the past summer as a fellow with T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. Eliana earned her B.A. in environmental studies from University of California, Santa Cruz, and worked as an outdoor educator before starting rabbinical school. Originally from Los Angeles, Eliana is excited to learn, sing, and connect with the Maine Jewish community. She will be working with Beth Israel Congregation in Waterville.