|Two B’nai Jehudah students accepted to rabbinical school|
|Written by Barbara Bayer, Editor|
|Thursday, May 03 2012 11:00|
Rachael Klein and Elana Nemitoff, both members of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, have been accepted to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion rabbinical school. As required, both young women will spend their first year studying in Jerusalem.
Klein is the daughter of Deb and Jeff Klein. Nemitoff is the daughter of Rabbi Arthur and Leslie Nemitoff.
Rabbi Nemitoff believes this is the second time the Reform congregation has had two children accepted to rabbinical school at the same time. The last time was 36 years ago.
“Those two young men were Larry Karol and me. Five years later, Larry and I were ordained and became, if my memory serves me correctly, the ninth and 10th B’nai Jehudah children to become Reform rabbis,” Rabbi Nemitoff said.
Is his weekly email message to the congregation in late March, Rabbi Nemitoff noted that Klein “has wanted to be a rabbi for a number of years, and she has pursued her dream with determination.”
Klein, 21, will graduate from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles on May 20 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jewish studies. She has also received the honor of being the speaker for her graduating class, and will deliver her final words during the ceremony.
Klein said she’s been really passionate about Judaism since she was a young child.
“Throughout my life everything has fallen into place to do this. I love helping people, but more than that, I love helping Jews connect with their community. I want to work in the Jewish community and be a part of not only the educational side, but the life-cycle side of people’s lives as well,” Klein said.
The 22-year-old Nemitoff plans to graduate May 18 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and minors in technical theater and Jewish studies from Washington University in St. Louis. Rabbi Nemitoff explained that his daughter’s path to rabbinical school “has been more circuitous but no less determined” than Klein’s.
Elana Nemitoff said that stems from the fact that she’s always had a variety of loves, including working with children, Judaism, helping people and doing good to help make change in the world.
“I had no idea how I was going to put all those things together. I struggled for a very long time thinking about it … one day I was talking to my dad and he said think about it. You love theater, you love kids, you love Judaism, you love teaching. What’s a way to put it all together. I thought about it and it came to me: rabbinical school,” Elana Nemitoff said.
Now that she’s made the decision to become a rabbi, she quite frankly doesn’t know what else she would do. Being a rabbi, she believes, will give her a chance to affect change in the Jewish community.
“It’s a place that I have gotten so much from,” she said.
“I would like to help give back and help bring the next generation of Jews into the community so the next generation of Jews continues to prosper and grow. It seems like being a rabbi is the best way to do that and make that change,” she said.
The HUC-JIR Rabbinical School offers a five-year program of full-time graduate study leading to a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters degree and ordination. Upon successful completion of that first year in Israel, students return to one of the three American campuses — Cincinnati, Los Angeles or New York.
Nemitoff is hoping to continue her studies on the Cincinnati campus because she is considering a concentration in medical chaplaincy and “Cincinnati has the best program for that,” she said.
One reason Nemitoff is interested in chaplaincy is because she’s been interested in medicine since she was a child. She’s also seen how much chaplains can impact and help people.
“If I can ease just a little bit of pain, it would ease some of the burden in the world and that’s something that I would be incredibly grateful for,” Nemitoff said.
Klein hopes to continue her studies at the Los Angeles campus, because she already feels connected to the Jewish community there. One relationship is with Camp Hess Kramer in Malibu and the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, which owns the camp.
“The senior staff liked me as a counselor and the synagogue later hired me as a sixth-grade religious school teacher. I am also a part of Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s teen programming and I staff miscellaneous events like religious school retreats,” Klein said.
Klein also works for the Stephen S. Weiss Temple, staffing events.
“I originally began my college journey as a Division 1 soccer player at Drake University, so I found time to give back to the soccer community by volunteering with the fourth- through sixth-grade girls’ soccer team at Stephen S. Wise’s Day School,” Klein added.
Nemitoff said the fact that she is the daughter of a rabbi absolutely affected her decision to choose the rabbinate as her career path.
“Watching my dad as I grew up, I saw the positive and negative of what it meant to be a rabbi. I experienced the business, I experienced the pain, I experienced all of it. But I also saw the wonderful community that I could be a part of creating and I realized that I was my father’s daughter,” she said.
She believes being the daughter of a rabbi impacted her in a positive way.
“I know what it means to be a rabbi. I know what that commitment is. I’m doing it despite the fact that I know that and because of it. Honestly, I’m so grateful for the experience I got growing up and the fact I grew up in such a Jewish-filled household. It gives me such a stronger foundation from which I can build my life, which I will take with me,” Nemitoff said.
Klein is looking forward to being roommates with Nemitoff and spending a year in Jerusalem. This will be her second trip to Israel, the first being a 10-day Birthright Israel trip where she said she had a “little taste” of the Jewish state.
“I’m really excited to live abroad in Jerusalem and meet my future classmates,” Klein said.
As a rabbi and a parent, Rabbi Nemitoff is thrilled to see the two girls go off to Jerusalem and HUC-JIR representing B’nai Jehudah.
“It is with particular joy to know that two young women of B’nai Jehudah are following in the footsteps of two young men of the congregation — 36 years apart — in becoming leaders of Judaism for the 21st century,” he said.
“I am proud whenever a child of B’nai Jehudah excels and joins the ranks of those who make a difference in our world. There is a particular joy and pride when a student of mine chooses to accept the mantle of leadership for the Jewish people. And my heart swells knowing that one of my students is my own daughter,” he continued.
“We congratulate Rachael and Elana ... and look forward to their visits in the future, as we see them develop their rabbinic and leadership skills. To both of them, we say: mazel tov!”