Into each of our lives, come people who inspire us and who we look to for advice and mentorship. I am lucky to have had a few Rebbetzins as these people in my life, who I can only hope to emulate in some small way when my time comes. I want to take a moment to talk about the three Rebbetzin mentors I have had to date, and the strongest lessons I have learned from them.
The first Rebbetzin who really made a positive impact on my life and serves as my mental inspiration, is Debbie. Debbie was always happy to welcome new and familiar faces to both the synagogue and her home. I will never forget the first time I had lunch at her home and she said the following when I asked if I could help: “This is your first time here, you are a guest. Next time you come, don’t wait this long. Just make yourself comfortable and do what needs to be done.” Granted, it has been a few years so my recollection may have slightly changed her words, but definitely not the thought behind them. Debbie also had four children underfoot, so having friendly visitors who could be useful was a great asset. She was sure to find a balance between making new people feel welcomed and appreciated and treated as guests, and also making sure everything happened and people felt comfortable in her home.
The second Rebbetzin who has strongly impacted my life is Tammy (pictured happily dancing with me at my wedding). Tammy may be the wife of a Rabbi and the mother of four wonderful teenagers, but her knowledge and wisdom goes far beyond that. I was recently engaged in a conversation about who our Rabbi’s were, and I had to admit that honestly, mine is not anyone with smicha (Rabbinic ordination), but rather – Tammy. She is the person I approach with my questions and the one I trust to give me a truthful and halachic answer, that is also relevant to life as a Jewish woman. Tammy takes the time to get to know the people in her community and to find ways to get people involved. She is always happy to help connect people to each other and the greater Jewish community. I know that I can not attempt to count the ways in which she has enriched my life, including and most importantly – introducing D to our synagogue’s young adult community.
Last, but certainly not least – and certainly not the last Rebbetzin who will inspire me, is Melanie. Melanie is not only a Rebbetzin in my community, but a very dear friend. On a regular basis she reminds me, and others, that it is but one of many hats she wears. While her husband is a Rabbi, she too has a professional and personal life. She is an amazing mother to her three young children, and is never afraid to get down on the floor and just be a mom. Her children already love being Jewish and have a sense of giving and tzedakah, which is greater than many of my peers. Melanie inspires me daily and this is but one small and very special part of that.
Not ironically, all of these women are well educated in Judaism and have social work backgrounds. Each of them shines a light on what it means to be an educated lay leader and an observant Conservative woman. If I can take just one thing from each of them, it would be their welcoming spirits and eagerness to meet new people. They truly will always be a part of me and I cannot thank them for that enough.