I was exactly twelve weeks pregnant the day of ordination. Having not been a mother through rabbinical school I had no sense of the profound impact the sacred role parenting would have on my rabbinate.
My first year as a rabbi I worked as the Director of Cincinnati Hillel, where I had worked as the rabbinic intern during my fifth year of rabbinical school. Working with college students was exhilarating — college is a transformative time in one’s life and I felt passionate about creating an engaging, safe, compassionate, and soulful community. My son Jonah was born six months into taking on the role. It was very difficult to be away from him during the long hours the role required. Ultimately I decided to step down from the position in order to have more time with Jonah.
For the next three years, I worked part time at Temple Sholom in Cincinnati, a warm, innovative, and involved community. In my three years at Temple Sholom under the vision of Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp I helped to develop their young family program, facilitated an adult b’nai mitzvah program, taught adult education, and led worship services. In this role I continued to engage meaningfully with individuals of all ages, accompanying them on their Jewish journeys, supporting them through times of struggle, and celebrating their joys with them. During these three years my husband and I welcomed another child into our family. Oliver spent much of his first year at Temple Sholom; I will be forever grateful to have worked in a community that embraced having their rabbi bounce her child on her lap during staff meetings.
Having worked in the pulpit for three years, I found that I felt most connected and most authentic to my calling while doing pastoral care. I decided to participate in the yearlong CPE residency program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. While there I served as a chaplain in the Emergency Department, in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and in Inpatient Psychiatry. This year taught me so much about myself, about humanity, and about the divine presence.
After completing the residency year, I became the hospice chaplain of Village Home Health and Hospice, a hospice that serves mostly Jewish patients. I feel blessed to compassionately accompany individuals and their families as they journey through the end of their life. Every person I work with is a world in and of himself or herself; it is such a sacred gift to be with them and to offer them care. This work is part time, so it allows me to pick up my children from school and spend Shabbat with my family.
My rabbinate has taken many turns in the short five years since I was ordained. I am grateful for all of the rabbinic positions I have held. I do not know what the future of my rabbinate will look like — I can see so many different paths forward, and all of them excite me. I know that as I move forward in my rabbinate I will continue to be in roles that allow for honest connections that are soul nurturing and that allow for me to be as involved as I want to be as a mother to my children.
Elana Dellal is the Hospice Chaplain at Village Home Health and Hospice