Who are we?
A long time ago, in a cornfield far, far away, Melissa and Jessica met at a Hillel event. Over the next several years (and boyfriends, haircuts, illnesses and surgeries), we became friends, and then long-distance pals. During this time, we both started looking more into our Judaism, and met spouses. In January 2010, it became clear that both our husbands had decided to become rabbis.
Although other professions have stereotypes and expected behaviors (doctor’s wives, politician’s wives), rabbi’s wives are the only ones blessed with their own term: Rebbetzin. Over the many years it has been in use, it has come to mean a lot of different things. We hope to bring our own perspectives as we travel the journey from wives to rabbi’s wives.
We bring stories from our lives, including the journey of our husbands becoming rabbinical students, our own Jewish journeys as they develop, as well as our thoughts, feelings and opinions on a variety of topics in Jewish life, especially issues surrounding feminism and women’s issues. We also bring articles of interest, as well as the occasional guest post to bring in more perspective.
I have always been a wandering Jew. I was born in South Africa, and we moved to Twillingate, Newfoundland, Canada when I was seven. At the age of ten, we moved to a small town in Illinois, where we became involved in our local Reform synagogue. I got involved in our local NFTY youth group, which gave me the most amazing experiences of high school. When I went to college, I was looking for a similar kind of experience and found it through Hillel.
By the time I was a junior, I was co-president of the Hillel Student Leadership Council, a member of the KESHER Leadership Council, and a member of the Governing Board of the Hillel. That year, I also started dating the man who would become my husband, although I didn’t realize it at the time. Slowly, through my intense involvement in Hillel, I became more religiously observant, but since he was Modern Orthodox, we still had a lot of common ground to find.
After spending time finding that ground and a year in Israel at the Pardes Institute, we got married in September 2007, and moved to Chicago to begin the next part of our journey. There, our experiences helped us determine our next part of our journey. However, we took a detour for a year to work for our alumni Hillel for a year, as the Program Director (me) and Interim Executive Director (him). In fall 2011, we moved to New York City, so that R could begin rabbinical school, and I could start at NYU, getting a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Jewish Studies. I graduated in May 2014, and welcomed our daughter, Penny, in December 2014. R graduates from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in June 2015.
Jessica’s Story Part I & II (Feb. 2010)
I’ve Always Been Jewish
Jessica’s Story II: Stranger in a Strange Religion
Getting Together with R:
Meeting at the Well, Meeting in the Middle
I was born and raised in Southern California, in a stereotypical “West Coast Conservative” setting and was active in two USY chapters (my own was so small, I had to join another to meet anyone new) and attended Hebrew High. I sought out Hillel when I went to college a few hours from home, having seen those who went before me find it a comforting place. I served on the board of Hillel for my entire undergraduate career, and was also instrumental in bringing a Jewish sorority to campus. I was so transformed and rejuvenated through these experiences that I left for graduate school in a cornfield in Illinois with a desire to grow in my religious observance. Through my involvement with Hillel and the graduate student and women’s programming there, I was able to form bonds with a variety of people whom I could learn from and with in order to develop my personal level of observance. The more I learned, the more I took on. The more I took on, the more I wanted to learn. It is a cyclical journey which guides me to this day.
At the end of graduate school I continued on my physically winding path to Chicago, and later to Denver, where just two months after moving I met the man I am now married to at our synagogue’s Shabbat kiddush lunch, where from our early conversations, I had a feeling I would be the Rebbetzin to his Rabbi. We continue to learn and grow together as our life-path unfolds and after doing that for two years in Jerusalem, we now find ourselves in New York – simultaneously pursing rabbinic ordination (perhaps the first time thats happened in the Orthodox world).
Melissa’s Story Part I & II (Feb. 2010)
Melissa’s Story Part I: The Girl Everyone Thought Would Be a Rabbi
Melissa’s Story Part II: Embracing the Rebbetzin Opportunity
Where We Are Now