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June 14, 2013  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Sun City Center congregation hires first full-time rabbi

Jewish Press

Rabbi Carla Freedman Rabbi Carla Freedman After years of training youngsters for b’nai mitzvahs, Rabbi Carla Freedman is ready for a change of pace — a synagogue where the focus will be on adults.

In July, Rabbi Freedman will become the first fulltime rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Sun City Center, in the heart of a sprawling retirement community and with a membership comprised of peole age 55 and up.

“It is a community of adults that are very eager to do some Jewish learning and be involved in joyful Jewish life and I am ready to be part of exactly that kind of community,” Rabbi Freedman said.

She has served at two congregations in New York since 1990 and says she is not only looking forward to moving here for the sunshine, but also because Beth Israel is a congregation where folks care deeply about their faith.

“I feel very strongly that Jewish life is a matter of ongoing learning and there is always an opportunity to learn and to expand ones appreciation of the wisdom of our heritage and the breath and scope of it,” she said. “I expect virtually everything I will be doing will be a reflection of a commitment of ongoing learning.”

Rabbi Freedman was rabbi at Temple B’nai Israel in Plattsburgh, NY, from 1990-97, then served as rabbi at the Jewish Family Congregation in South Salem, NY, from 1997 until accepting her new post at Sun City Center.

“Having spent the last 16 years doing b’nai mitzvah and working with preschool kids, I am now very interested in working with adults, not for what I can teach their children but for themselves,” she said in a phone interview with the Jewish Press. And in a message to the congregation, printed in Beth Israel’s summer bulletin, she said, “I am very excited about coming to serve Beth Israel … because I respect and value the fact that the members of this congregation belong to the temple for themselves and not for the education of their children, which characterizes the membership base of so many other congregations.”

Rabbi Freedman says she has known Rabbi Betsy Torop of Congregation Beth Shalom of Brandon, the synagogue closest in proximity to Beth Israel, for years. “She and I have talked about the fact that young families are not going to be drawn to the congregation I will serve,” Rabbi Freedman said.

She said she liked Beth Israel the first time she visited in Feburary and said the congregation was very warm to her. During a second visit, she brought her partner of 26 years, Jeanne, with her.

Rabbi Freedman noted that her sexual orientation “never became an issue” and does not define her as a rabbi. “They were very welcoming of both of us,” she said.

In addition to being the first Canadian woman to be ordained a rabbi at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, OH, Rabbi Freedman says she also is the first rabbi to become a grandmother. She explained that some rabbis have had grandchildren before entering rabbinical school, but she is the only one as a rabbi to become a grandmother – 21 years ago.

Rabbi Freedman was born and raised in Winnnipeg, Canada, and has a rich, lifelong history of Jewish involvement. A gifted storyteller, she won B’nai B’rith Girls’ International Storytelling Contest in 1960. She went on to become founding member of Temple Shalom in Winnipeg; where she edited the newsletter, coordinated the choir, taught Hebrew and assisted the rabbi in teaching the conversion class.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1965 and her master’s degree in educational psychology in 1980 from the University of Manitoba. She received her master’s degree in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College 1989 and was ordained there the following year.

She's a beauty. Good luck

She's a beauty. Good luck

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