Shedding New Light on Jewish Traditions


Rabbi Barbara Penzner’s Story


The Congregation of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, which served as a “lab shul” for rabbinical students, was a bold experiment, an act of Reconstructionist faith, The founders graciously gave student rabbis latitude to experiment and forgave us our impetuousness and inexperience.


My four years at CRRC (affectionately, R2C2) were more than an internship. The congregation became my family and the leaders were all mentors to me, though I may have been so overconfident that I overlooked their influence. You offered feedback with respect and compassion. You contributed creative ideas for services, including a slide show one Yom Kippur. You helped me learn how to engage and empower leaders, as well as how to step back so you could take charge.


In return, I was with you through life moments: birth, death, b’nai mitzvah, and serious illness. I witnessed the strength of community when one member suffered a debilitating back ailment and the entire congregation rallied around the family for months. One child, whose naming I celebrated as a rabbinical student, now teaches in the synagogue where I serve in Boston. I’ll never forget the rabbinic “trial by fire” when, just prior to the holidays, a member’s mother passed away and I had to suspend sermon writing to prepare for the funeral, which was followed by a bar mitzvah the next Shabbat. Every year as Rosh Hashanah approaches, I remind myself to be prepared for an important pastoral call, which always takes priority.


Though I have been in Boston for over twenty-six years, the growth of Or Hadash has continued to inspire me. Thank you for reminding me of those wonderful, creative and invigorating early years together!