A couple of noteworthy firsts passed with little fanfare this past December that are unusual in Canada’s religiously (and increasingly politically) conservative Jewish community.
First, Temple Emanu-El Beth Sholom in Montreal named Rabbi Lisa Grushcow to succeed Rabbi Leigh Lerner, who will become rabbi emeritus of Canada’s oldest Reform synagogue. In doing so, the temple became the first Canadian shul with more than 1,000 member families to hire a female rabbi as its spiritual leader.
But Rabbi Grushcow, who takes up her new post July 1, is notable in a number of other ways. For one, she’s a lesbian, and her partner is another rabbi (Rabbi Andrea Myers). They have two daughters together, ages 8 and 2. So she’ll also be the first lesbian, the first mom, and first lesbian mom to lead a Canadian shul with more than 1,000 member families.
What’s more, Rabbi Grushcow — who was ordained by Hebrew Union College in 2003 and is currently serving as senior associate rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City — is a Rhodes Scholar who earned a doctorate in rabbinics from Oxford.
As well, she was born in Ottawa and grew up in Toronto, where her family attended Beth Tikvah Synagogue, a Conservative shul. Her Canadian passport will make her a rarity among senior rabbis of large Canadian shuls. (I can think of only one other Canuck who leads a congregation with more than 1,000 member families: Rabbi Philip Scheim at Toronto’s Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am Synagogue).
To top it off, she’s under 40, which is also unusual among spiritual leaders of large synagogues.
That’s quite a résumé. Continue reading