Fierce grace
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Fierce grace

“Rebecca sees potential in people, often before they see it in themselves,” Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr said. “That’s one of her gifts.

“She has helped me stretch and grow as a human, as a rabbi, as a mother, in myriad ways. She doesn’t offer platitudes. Instead, she hones in on their strengths. She helps in a way that is not as painful as it could be, as she figures out how to buttress weakness.

“And she’s unassuming about it,” Schorr continued. “She’s never going to make the Daily Beast’s list.” (That’s the list that Newsweek – which now is only online and has been subsumed by the Daily Beast – compiles. It is an entirely subjective list of the 50 most influential – read visible – rabbis. Unlike the Forward’s list, which came from nominations the paper requested from the general public, Newsweek’s is put together by a few writers, based, as they make clear, on who they know.)

“She is in fact a rabbi’s rabbi. The Clal rabbis are her congregation. Every day, she deals with rabbis – their foibles, their concerns, their questions, and their egos. She does it with grace and with graciousness. We often refer to her as a rabbi wrangler.”

Schorr, a Reform rabbi (“but I’m not a usual one,” she said. “I go to the mikvah, and I don’t wear pants.”) had been a congregational rabbi in California, sharing the bimah with her father at Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley, set on taking over from him one day. Then the oldest of her three children was diagnosed with autism and her husband was offered a good job with Crayola in Emmaus, Pa. The family moved and Schorr became a full-time stay-at-home mother. She is now redefining her rabbinate, with Sirbu’s help.

“I’m standing on the precipice now,” Schorr said. “I’m finding other colleagues who are carving out very untraditional rabbinates. We’re supporting each other, having honest – sometimes painfully honest – discussions. That’s just part of the progress of human beings. Rebecca is very good at establishing a safe space so we can have these interactions and walk away not as broken as we may have been otherwise.

“It’s fascinating how topics that I had very definite ideas on very radically challenged, to the extent that I now look at almost every issue differently. That’s part of the program - that’s there’s not just one truth.”

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