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Being an Interim Suits Her Just Fine

September 18, 2008 By:
Aaron Passman, JE Feature
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There's a new face at Temple Sholom in Broomall, but she's no rookie.

Rabbi Reena Spicehandler is currently serving as interim rabbi for the Delaware County shul -- a position she's held at four other synagogues over the past seven years, including ones in Doylestown and King of Prussia.

Rather than seeking out a traditional permanent rabbinic position, she's found her calling helping synagogues transition from one rabbi to the next.

She said that the dynamic between a congregation and its rabbi is like any other relationship, and, as such, it's difficult to make the switch into a new relationship.

"It helps to have someone in between two permanent rabbis, and some of

that adjustment happens when it's not long-term and it's not a commitment."

Spicehandler said her role as an interim rabbi is one of helping the congregation come together and heal somewhat, and then move forward as a community.

Prior to entering the rabbinate, she was at work on a doctorate in comparative literature when she realized that "all of my hobbies and spare time were involved in the Jewish community, and Jewish life and learning," so she shifted gears.

Ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote and the daughter of a rabbi, she said she initially thought she'd want a traditional pulpit, but "once I did interim work I realized that I was really very well suited to it, and I really loved it."

While she plans to continue working in interim positions, she has an academic background to fall back on, if necessary. After graduating from RRC, she spent 10 years as the school's dean of students and admissions before taking the synagogue positions, which she said allow her to focus on one or two different aspects of the rabbinate every year, depending upon the community she's serving.

"My primary focus is on taking the congregation that exists and strengthening it, rather than growing it larger; I leave that for the person that comes next."

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