When Rabbi Naomi Levy became the rabbi of Temple Mishkon Tephilo in Venice, Calif., in 1989, she was 26, recently graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary. A member of the first seminary class to admit women to study for the rabbinate, she became the first female Conservative rabbi to lead a congregation on the West Coast. At first, she was treated like something of a curiosity, but after a short time, after several marriages, births, burials in the community, she went from being their “new young woman rabbi to being their rabbi.”
Talk about Jewish continuity: Last year, Tirzah Rothschild had a young boy in her fourth-grade class at Yeshiva Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch whose grandfather had been her student. The boy's father had also been a pupil at the school while Rothschild served as principal. As she begins her 52nd year at the Washington Heights school this fall, these multi-generational connections are not uncommon.
Judging by their covers, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld’s just published work A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice (Schocken) and his earlier “The Jewish Catalog” (Jewish Publication Society) — published almost 30 years ago — couldn’t be more different. His new book is hardcover; its jacket features a traditional papercut design in deep colors, highlighted in gold, altogether very handsome. The first book, a paperback he edited along with Richard Siegel and Sharon Strassfeld, is bright red, with a do-it-yourself look.