1. When were you at Hadar?
I’m old-school Hadar. I was there in the summer of 2009, and for the first two years of the year-round program.
2. Where are you now (physically)?
I’m living in Israel.
3. What are you up to now?
I just graduated from Hebrew Union College, so I’m officially a rabbi! In that capacity, I’m starting a community in Givatayim; right now we meet once a month for Kabbalat Shabbat, and I’m thinking about how we can grow, not just in terms of numbers, but in feeling like there is a place where people can come together for meaningful Jewish engagement—something that is, in fact, necessary in Israel.
I also work at The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot, researching and writing about Jewish communities, past and present. Some of what I write appears on the museum’s blog, and if I can make a shameless plug, some of my articles can be found here: https://www.bh.org.il/author/rachel/.
And because I just can’t get enough of school, I recently started a master’s program in Yiddish literature through a joint program at Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University.
4. Is there a beautiful piece of Torah from your Hadar days that you keep close to your heart?
One piece of Torah that I’ve thought about a lot, and have used myself in some of my drashas, was Dr. Devora Steinmetz’s teaching about Yaakov’s two dreams in Parshas Vayetze, and how she analyzed them and connected them to Yaakov’s journey.
5. If you could describe your experience at Hadar in one word what would it be (feel free to elaborate beyond a single word)?
6. How have Torah and mitzvot changed your life (post Hadar)?
In many ways my time at Hadar helped me to articulate my halakhic philosophy to myself. It also gave me tools to translate Judaism as a system of values to audiences that are less Jewishly engaged or knowledgeable, and who often come in with a lot of fear/baggage/preconceived notions. This language, and these tools, allow me to have conversations about the importance of engaging with Jewish texts and sources, and the ways in which Judaism can be a source of meaning and values.
7. Is there a time this past year when Hadar specifically came to mind?
Particularly as I finished school, which was a crazy time with lots of assignments to finish up and the obligatory existential crises, it was really nice to be able to reach out to some of my former teachers at Hadar (particularly Rabbi Elie Kaunfer and Rabbi Ethan Tucker) for help in gathering resources and improving my work. I also developed a lot of really meaningful friendships during my time at Hadar, and having the support of my friends during a pretty intense time was very important.