2011-2012 Seminary Interns

The Seminary Leadership Project has provided over 200 rabbinical, cantorial, and education students with organizing and leadership development training, mentorship with rabbis and organizers engaged in synagogue organizing, and opportunities to strengthen bonds across denominations and seminaries. SLP alumni go on to do important work strengthening synagogues and Jewish communities across the country.

Jennifer Gubitz is a fifth-year rabbinical student. In recent years, Jen served pulpits in Rocky Mount, NC, Steubenville, OH, and Brooklyn, NY; worked in an Israeli prison rehabilitation program on Kibbutz Gezer’s Pinat Shorashim educational garden; and interned at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, CA. At HUC, Jen was the President of the Rabbinical School Student Association and active in the Worship Working Group and Soup Kitchen. For the past two years, she has been the JUST Congregations Community Organizing Rabbinic Intern at Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, NJ. She is endlessly grateful to JOIN for Justice for making possible the transformative organizing internship experience that will have endless impact on her rabbinate.

Rachel Van Thyn is a fourth year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and hails from Mississauga, Ontario. While learning through JOIN’s Seminary Leadership Project, Rachel began to explore the world of community organizing with a small congregation in Brooklyn, NY. She now carries on her passion for social justice by engaging in community organizing work as the Rabbinic Intern at Central Synagogue in New York City. At Central, Rachel has been spending time working with congregants around two main issues of concern: Improving the quality of life for urban seniors and issues of Jewish continuity in their community. The Quality of Life for Seniors team had a successful house meeting in December, where they heard stories from their congregants that inspired them to dig deeper. They hope to discern more about the issues facing their constituents in the 65+ age group, and are moving towards action. They are also participants with Manhattan Together, and hope to dovetail their external efforts as they take their next steps towards change.Since the spring of 2010, Central’s group focused on Jewish Continuity has continued exploring questions of what it means to pass on the traditions of Judaism to their families in an urban environment with competing interests.

Rachel Grant Meyer is current a 5th year rabbinical student at Hebrew College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. For the last two years, she has served as the Rabbinic Organizing Intern at Temple Sinai in Roslyn Heights, New York. There, she participated in a congregation-wide listening campaign and heard powerful stories about congregants’ lives and challenges, and in hearing stories of parents struggling to support their children as they cope with isolation and bulling, helped to identify bullying as a shared concern. Rachel and the congregation began acting to ensure that Temple Sinai would be a safe space and created a Code of Conduct for the Hebrew High School students focusing on covenantal relationship and anti-bullying expectations; they also designed a mentorship program that teaches students how to be “upstanders” rather than bystanders when they encounter bullying in their communities.

Laura Abrasley is a 4th year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR’s Los Angeles campus and a recent proud recipient of a Masters in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education. She is delighted to be learning about and acting for justice in her internship efforts this year as the community organizing rabbinic intern at Temple Judea in Tarzana, California. Laura is a strong advocate of the idea that community works best when it puts people before programs. She loves the opportunity to test out that theory working this year with her amazing congregants as they call for social change in both their synagogue and local community. In addition, she feels lucky that the internship includes an opportunity to work with local broad-based community organizing efforts on important initiatives like educating about the need for adequate healthcare insurance for all citizens as well as creating partnerships between schools, teachers and parents in strengthening public education. Prior to joining Temple Judea in September 2011, Laura had the pleasure of amazing rabbinic internships in such far away places as San Francisco and Visalia, CA. Prior to the rabbi-educator journey, she was the Youth Educator at Temple Israel in Boston and regularly told others that being a Jewish educator was one of the best jobs in the world. When she’s not studying or teaching, you can find Laura hanging out or playing with her partner Julie, their son Noah and the fuzzy yellow dog they call Daisy.

Suzy Stone is a former Jewish Organizing Fellow, entered rabbinical school at HUC-JIR in order to combine her passion for social justice and Judaism. During her time at HUC-JIR she participated in what would become JOIN’s Seminary Leadership Project Cross Seminary Class of 2009. For the last two years, Suzy has served as rabbinic organizing intern throughout the Seminary Leadership Project at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles. With a team of dedicated lay leaders, she has been working on issues related to public education, as well as, developing a team of core leaders who are invested in creating a more relational congregation. She is currently completing her thesis, which is entitled, “Community Organizing: A Jewish Call to Action.” Her thesis is a resource guide for people who want to combine Jewish texts and philosophy with the cycle of organizing. Suzy Stone is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and will be ordained in May 2012.

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