For Sarah Newmark, being a rabbi "wasn't in the life plan." But as she became more involved with her local Jewish community — working with the Sisterhood, serving as synagogue president and being active within the Federation system — "somehow, my avocation and professional work started shifting," she said.
Newmark, who's entering her final year at Wyncote's Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, will be among the student rabbis at Bristol Jewish Center, which has long hosted such students.
Newmark, 56, has spent most of her adult life in the Pacific Northwest, but moved here with her husband for RRC.
Previously, she worked as a college English instructor, both at Pacific University in Portland, Ore., and at several community colleges around Seattle.
It's easy for her to feel at home at the Bristol shul, she said, because the congregation has "nurtured a generation of Reconstructionist rabbis, and they take pride in that." She called the center basically a Conservative congregation, with a foot in the Reconstructionist camp.
Bristol won't be entirely new digs for her; she served there two years ago with Lauren Brody-Hyett, an RRC student who will be entering her third year as a student rabbi at the center.
Rounding out the trio at Bristol will be Doris Dyen. When she turned 60 four years ago, she said it served as an opportunity for a moment of major reflection. Her mother had died at that age, and Dyen's first thought upon reaching that milestone, was, " 'I guess I'm going to be around for more years than she was,' and then I thought, 'What do I really need to be doing with the rest of my time on earth?' "
Now a third-year student, she commutes back and forth between her home in Pittsburgh (where her husband resides) and sharing an apartment with a classmate in Mount Airy.
But this year, she'll stay in Bristol some weekends to work on the bimah.
She noted that the shul's small size gives members "an opportunity to experience different types of leading styles" while the congregation has the benefit of being anchored by Rabbi Judith Abrahamson.