A Historic Choice for Atlanta

A Historic Choice for Atlanta

Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner of Temple Beth Tikvah is the first woman to lead the Atlanta Rabbinical Association.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner
Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner

Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner remembers being told, just several years ago, that “it was fine for women rabbis to serve the community as teachers or assistant rabbis, but not in senior leadership positions.”

Shuval-Weiner, the senior rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah, is now president of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association, the first woman to hold the post. Elected this spring, she succeeded Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal, the senior rabbi at Congregation Ahavath Achim.

Rabbi Ellen Nemhauser manages the URJ’s Introduction to Judaism and serves part-time at Congregation B’nai Israel in Fayetteville.

As for being a “first,” Shuval-Weiner told the AJT: “I think it speaks to the value placed on and growing acceptance of women religious leaders here in Georgia. Since arriving to Georgia six years ago I have seen a gradual shift in how people respond to meeting women rabbis. … Today we have many outstanding women rabbis leading all over Georgia in a multitude of ways. Truthfully, we still have a ways to go until we women rabbis are simply seen as ‘rabbis,’ yet it is my prayer that by serving in this role with the ARA that we are able to push that dream forward a bit faster.”

Shuval-Weiner said the ARA’s role “is to provide a religious voice for the community in matters of ethic and moral concern, and to model and provide a Jewish framework on challenging issues.”

The remainder of the ARA board, who serve two-year terms, are: Rabbi Joshua Lesser, rabbi emeritus, Congregation Bet Haverim, vice president; Rabbi Daniel Dorsch, senior rabbi, Congregation Etz Chaim, secretary; and Rabbi Ari Leubitz, head of school, Atlanta Jewish Academy, treasurer. The members-at-large are Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, senior educator, Bechol Lashon, and Rabbi Hillel Konigsburg, Congregation B’nai Torah. Rosenthal becomes immediate past president.

Rabbi Joshua Lesser is the new ARA vice president.

Lesser has been a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community as well as being involved in numerous other social and political issues. “I am serving a second term on the ARA board, and this time in the position of vice president. Our diversity is representative of a thriving Atlanta rabbinic community that represents different perspectives, life experiences and points of view. Together we look forward to serving our colleagues and the wider Jewish community,” he said.

Shuval-Weiner joined Beth Tikvah in 2015 as the Reform congregation’s third senior rabbi. She previously served from 2008-15 as associate rabbi of The Temple-Congregation B’nai Jehudah, in Overland Park, Kansas. The Los Angeles native received her master’s degree in Jewish Studies in 2006, Master of Hebrew Letters in 2007, and was ordained as a rabbi in 2008 at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. She holds a master’s degree in education, specializing in school administration, from the University of Central Oklahoma and a bachelor’s degree from Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, where she majored in education and humanities.

Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal is the immediate past president of the ARA.

Rosenthal told the AJT: “Being president of the ARA has been such an incredible honor. The opportunity to connect in very meaningful ways with my colleagues was well worth the effort and any hardship. Being president during a pandemic wasn’t ideal but it did increase the impact made through our work with the rabbinic and greater Jewish communities.

“I personally feel so blessed to have my lasting impact on the ARA and Atlanta Jewish communities to be in elevating and handing over the rabbinic and spiritual leadership of the ARA to Rabbi Alex and Rabbi Josh. They are both titans and will take the Atlanta Jewish communities to new heights. Having them as VP and officers while I was president was a true gift. I can’t wait to follow and support them during their leadership.”

Shuval-Weiner’s election was heralded by Rabbi Ellen Nemhauser, who manages the Union of Reform Judaism’s Introduction to Judaism online and serves part-time at Congregation B’nai Israel in Fayetteville. “I think it’s actually a long time coming. Over the past 40 years, there’s been a succession of women rabbis at Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist synagogues and in other leadership roles in the community. I think the way in which women are shaping every facet of Jewish life in greater Atlanta is significant in myriad ways. I’m delighted that my colleague and friend Rabbi Shuval-Weiner is heading our rabbinic assembly and look forward to seeing her ongoing impact in Atlanta’s Jewish community.”

Loren Filson Lapidus is the senior associate rabbi at The Temple.

Rabbi Loren Filson Lapidus, the senior associate rabbi at The Temple, echoed Nemhauser, saying: “Rabbi Shuval-Weiner is a blessing to our Atlanta Jewish community. Her leadership over the past several years in our Greater Atlanta Reform Clergy group and the CCAR [Central Conference of American Rabbis], as well as the ARA, is an inspiration to all of us. We are all so excited that she is the first woman in the president’s role, another milestone in the story of women rabbis and cantors here in our Atlanta community.”

Next June 3, 2022, will mark the 50th anniversary of the ordination of the first female rabbi by one of Judaism’s major movements in the United States, that of Rabbi Sally Priesand by the Reform movement at Hebrew Union College in 1972. The Reconstructionist movement’s first ordained female rabbi, in 1974, was Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. The Conservative movement’s first female rabbi, ordained in 1985, was Rabbi Amy Eilberg. A handful of Orthodox women have been ordained, though outside of the primary Orthodox yeshivas.

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