An Interview with Rabbi Epstein

Rabbi Rebecca Epstein at Congregation Beth Israel, Austin, TX

Rabbi Rebecca Epstein at Congregation Beth Israel, Austin, TX

Rebecca Epstein is our Educational Director and Rabbi. She has been a wonderful and engaging member of our rabbinical staff going on four years now. She was raised in Minnesota and went to college in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Q: What led you to become a rabbi?

A: “I think the biggest influence on me was that I lived in New York City on 9/11, and at the time I had just graduated from college and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was doing some different volunteer projects, and was also a modern dancer, so was taking dance classes. I was also teaching Hebrew school, and really wanted to give the Hebrew school kids a place they could come and feel connected to tradition and their community and feel positive after 9/11. This is what motivated me — to give back a sense of community and tradition.”

Q: You mention that you enjoy working with children. What was your own childhood like?

A: ”I was raised in Minnesota to a Jewish Dad and a non-Jewish mom. Mom was spiritual, but didn't go to church. I went to temple with my dad for the High Holiday services. Temple was the only religious place I went to.

I felt drawn to Judaism as a child. I loved the music, the tradition, and loved our rabbi ( one of the first female rabbis). I told my parents I wanted to go to Sunday school and wanted to be Bat Mitzvah’d.”

Q: What has been your biggest reward as a rabbi?

A: ”Teaching kids and adults, and watching them get excited learning about Judaism. Giving meaning to their lives — that is really special and rewarding. And I feel I can do that in many ways. Even sad events, like funerals — I can minister to those in need, and that is a privilege."

Q: What about your biggest challenge?

A: ”Getting teens excited. They are the future, and getting them involved is important for strengthening their identity, as they will be the future of the Jewish people.”

Q: What do you like most about CBI?

A: ”What's awesome about CBI is that people are excited to try new things. And what's really nice is that the temple gives me the freedom to try new things.

One example is that in January, over the MLK weekend, we are planning a program where we focus on welcoming the stranger. The whole weekend will be spent learning about Social Justice, and connecting this through a Jewish standpoint and also a current events standpoint. I am always excited working on a new project and trying something I haven't done before. That's a really cool thing.”

“Also, entering into my 4th year year here, working with the kids and families and getting to know them and building relationships has been very rewarding.”

Well, Rabbi Epstein, interviewing you has also been a rewarding privilege, and I feel blessed having gotten to know and learn about you.

Carol Calvery