Photo: Courtesy of Rabbi Jamie Serber
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in 2017 and just launched my own independent rabbinate. My rabbinate is a holistic one that approaches Jewish practice with an open mind and heart while still giving a nod to tradition. Additionally, I tend to look at the family as a whole with a specific emphasis on womxn and children.
Therefore, my offerings are very much geared toward empowering all womxn, children, families, and individuals who may feel like they are on the fringes. Everyone is welcome under my Jewish tent, especially those who haven’t felt that traditional spaces serve their needs. I am incredibly accessible due to being available both online and in person.
What inspired you to become a Rabbi and what do you enjoy the most about your chosen profession?
Throughout my life, I have always felt a strong connection to Judaism, ritual, and God/Shekhinah. Being Jewish was and still is a key part of my identity. After I graduated from college (University of Hartford) with a B.A in Judaic Studies, I took some time off to find myself and really think about my future career. My moms had suggested that I look into rabbinical school. I initially laughed but then thought about it and said to myself, “I like Hebrew, Judaics, and kids…rabbi!”
The thing I enjoy the most about being a rabbi is the ability to build positive and authentic relationships with each and every person that I meet. I want everyone to enjoy being Jewish as much as I do.
How have you seen inclusion grow since you have become a Rabbi and what does being Jewish mean to you?
I’m still a new-ish rabbi so I don’t think so much has changed since I graduated. However, I really do appreciate the growing awareness of marginalized groups within Judaism. It’s wonderful that institutions are looking at how they can include those who feel like they are on the fringes.
Being Jewish means having a culture and religion that embraces my values and allows me to be my authentic self. It means having a community that understands a key part of who I am and can be with me in times of joy and pain. Being Jewish means having an ancestral heritage that allows for ritual healing.
What type of services do you offer?
I offer a wide array of classes both in person and online. A few examples of my courses include Ancestral Work, Soul Candles, Soul Prep for the High Holidays, An Exploration of Jewish Amulets, Ashkenazi Birthing Folklore and Rituals, and Marxist Chicken Farmers of Sullivan County, NY. Additionally, I’m starting a Moon Club (Rosh Chodesh group) both online and in person as well as Contemplative Walks.
Could you tell us a little bit more about the Ancestral Work you offer as well as the Spiritual Guidance you provide? Are you providing these services online as well?
Yes. The Ancestral work I do is helping people connect to their deceased loved ones through different approaches. It’s incredibly important in this time for us to remember those who came before us so that we can be inspired by both their stories of survival and their accomplishments. The different ways in which I approach ancestral connections may include teaching genealogy and other related topics, art, text, meditation, prayer, and mediumship.
As for spiritual guidance, I offer this service to those who are searching for meaning, want a sounding board, or are just looking for accompaniment on their journey. These are some seriously trying times, and I think everyone could use a Spiritual Guide. By no means is this or should this be considered therapy. It’s really just a time for me to use my rabbinic wisdom and chaplaincy skills to listen and be with an individual as they explore a life path that works best for them.
Most of my services are available both online and in person.
You also organise Special Events and Retreats. What type of events do you host regularly and do you have to be Jewish to join them?
For Rosh Hashanah this year I’m hosting an in-person Contemplative Walk. We will have a limited number of people (10 plus me) and will be socially distanced, wearing masks, not singing, and following the most up-to-date CDC protocols. This walk will take place over the course of both days of Rosh Hashanah at the beautiful Mohonk Preserve in Upstate NY. The walk will be a total of 90 minutes with stops along the way to reflect and meditate. Additionally, there will be text study in chevruta (pairs), some traditIonal liturgy, and storytelling.
What are your wishes for the future?
My biggest hope for the future is for the healing of the world. We’re in a time of panic and pandemic. My wish is that we work together to see the God/Shekhinah in each other, love each other, and lift each other up. May science and compassion guide us to make the decisions that help us to flourish and nourish.
Where can our readers find out more about your work and how can they get in touch with you?
Thank you so much for this opportunity. I look forward to being on this journey with you!
Photos: Courtesy of Rabbi Jamie Serber