On Oct. 30, two Reform congregations in the New Orleans area are installing second rabbis for the first time.
At a 6 p.m. service, Touro Synagogue in New Orleans will install Rabbi Todd Silverman as Rabbinic Director of Lifelong Learning at its 6 p.m. service on Oct. 30. A Shabbat dinner reception will follow.
At their 8 p.m. service, Gates of Prayer in Metairie will install Rabbi Alexis Pinsky as the congregation’s first assistant rabbi.
A native of Clifton Park, N.Y., Silverman was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles this year. His undergraduate work was at SUNY-Oswego, where he studied theater.
Prior to attending rabbinical school, he taught at Brawerman Elementary School in West Los Angeles, and also worked as a residence counselor for Transitional Living Services of Onondaga Country in Syracuse, N.Y., a non-profit organization providing in-home services to clients with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries.
Silverman served as rabbinical intern at Temple Beth El of Santa Maria, Calif., and Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles, as well as acting as visiting rabbi for High Holy Day pulpits in Walla Walla, Wash., and Butte, Mont. He also spent a year as the educational intern at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, helping train and supervise teachers and specialists.
Throughout his years at HUC-JIR, he continued to work as an educator and administrator as various religious schools and Hebrew High programs throughout the Los Angeles area.
For two summers he was involved with the URJ Kutz Camp’s Kesher program, a 10-day sleep-away camp experience for children with autism. He later spent over a decade in various capacities at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camps in Malibu, Calif., serving as unit head, counselor-in-training director and camp educator.
In 2003 he was selected by the Foundation for Jewish Camp as a Spielberg Fellow for Jewish Theater Arts, studying and preparing with a small group of educators from across the country.
While at HUC-JIR, Silverman received the Rabbi Mordecai and Mrs. Eve Soloff Award for Excellence in Jewish Education and has preached extensively on the need for rethinking and reforming the process of Jewish education in the 21st century. He is the author of a curriculum guide entitled “I Applied My Heart to Know Wisdom: A Jewish Perspective On Personal Ideologies,” which focuses on texts from the books of Job, Ecclesiastes, and Pirkei Avot.
Pinsky is an Atlanta native who was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York this year, but she is no newcomer regarding New Orleans.
She was a Jewish studies and psychology major and active in Hillel at Tulane, and her brother was already in New Orleans, having attended Tulane for undergraduate and medical school.
While at Tulane, she taught at Temple Sinai and Touro Synagogue, and decided she wanted to pursue the rabbinate.
In 2013, she was one of four women featured at an all-night Shavuot learning session with Beth Israel, Gates of Prayer and Shir Chadash in Metairie, on “Authority and Leadership in the Jewish World.”
Pinsky has been student rabbi at Beth Sholom Temple in Fredericksburg, Va., and was rabbinic intern at Temple Emanu-El in New York, where she led worship, gave sermons, led Torah study, served as conversion coordinator, created family worship and was involved in their 20/30s outreach program.
Recently, Gates of Prayer announced that the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust provided a “significant gift that will help to fund a variety of activities” with Pinsky, who will be reaching out to the 20- and 30-something community.
Activities will include, but not be limited to, alternative worship experiences in various locations throughout the city, Shabbat dinners, formal and informal learning, tikkun olam activities and a variety of social gatherings.
On Oct. 24, TRIBE held its first event, a “Shabbatsana” at New Orleans City Park, “a morning of mindfulness and movement… to express and deepen our understanding of Judaism and spirituality through the practice of yoga and meditation.”
TRIBE is described as a “community for people in their 20s and 30s looking to engage with Jewish tradition and spiritual practice, while connecting with others in an open and inviting atmosphere.”