On and Off the Bimah: A Rabbinate of Both

For the first five years of my rabbinate, I served as a congregational rabbi in a large suburban synagogue — and I loved it. Now, I am the Senior Engagement Officer at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and I love this too. A rabbinate doesn’t have to be solely on or off the bimah; mine has been both.

Staying true to my passions and familial considerations have been part of every decision-making process along the way. My husband, Rabbi Joseph Skloot, pursued a PhD while I served as a congregational rabbi. At a certain point, he was eager for the experience of congregational life, and I was looking for a change as well. When he landed a placement at a synagogue in Washington, DC, I knew it was an opportunity for me to dig into social justice and serve as a rabbi in a different way.

I was thrilled to join the team at MAZON where I am responsible for Jewish community engagement, which means that I connect with rabbis, synagogues, and individuals who are eager to join us in our work to end hunger for people of all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel.

Now that I work as a rabbi for a nonprofit organization, I bring with me the skills and experiences from my time in a congregation. I prioritize relationship building and understand the nuances of synagogue life. And I am also gaining new skills as I create strategies for engaging the Jewish community in national projects and initiatives.

One such project is This Is Hunger, a traveling educational installation that will launch this November in Los Angeles. MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger has a long tradition of engaging the American Jewish community as well as antihunger organizations to become catalysts for the change we need to end hunger in America. We know all too well that there are persistent myths about hunger in America, about who is hungry and why. Until our nation recognizes the profound prevalence of hunger here at home, we will never be able to rally the political will required to end it.

That’s why we are launching This Is Hunger, a high-impact, experiential installation on wheels — literally, it’s a big rig. When the 53-foot-long double expandable trailer is parked and open on both sides, it provides nearly 1,000 square feet of interior space to take participants on a two-part journey: to understand the stark reality of hunger in America and to take action to end hunger once and for all.

On the one hand, working with rabbis and Jewish communal leaders across the country to host this project is very different from serving as a congregational rabbi in New Jersey. Yet, here I am, building relationships, pursuing justice, strengthening Jewish life, and teaching Torah. Throughout my rabbinate, no matter the role, these have been constant.

As HUC-JIR explores more deeply what it means to prepare rabbinical students for the diversity of today’s rabbinate, I offer my experience as a reminder that often we think we have to choose between a career on or off the bimah, but that’s not necessarily so. For me, the first eight years of my rabbinate have been so fulfilling precisely because I have had the opportunity to experience both.

Rabbi Erin Glazer is the Senior Engagement Officer at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

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