Temple Beth Shalom Plans Community Celebration in Honor of Their New Senior Rabbi | Shalom Austin

Temple Beth Shalom Plans Community Celebration in Honor of Their New Senior Rabbi

The Jewish Outlook

Sep 8, 2023

Rabbi Eleanor Steinman and her wife, Rabbi Denise Eiger. Courtesy: Rabbi Eleanor Steinman

By Julie Franklin

As the Jewish community around the world celebrates Rosh Hashanah and ushers in the year 5784, Rabbi Eleanor Steinman will take the pulpit at Temple Beth Shalom for her first High Holiday season as the congregation’s new senior rabbi. Assistant Rabbi Will Hall and Cantor Abby Gostein will join Rabbi Steinman for the High Holiday services.

On Friday, December 1, 2023, after the conclusion of the High Holidays, and before the community lights the shamash on the menorah for Hanukkah, TBS will host a Celebratory Shabbat for Rabbi Steinman, the entire TBS congregation, as well as family and friends of the Jewish community. The evening will include a special blessing for Rabbi Steinman by her friend and colleague, Rabbi Amy R. Perlin, Rabbi Emerita of Temple B’nai Shalom in Fairfax Station, Virgina. Rabbi Perlin is the first female rabbi to start her own congregation and serves as a member of the Reform rabbinical seminary’s Board of Governors.

The search for a new senior rabbi began in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The committee meetings, interviews and all things related to the search were conducted online, making the goal of finding a rabbi incredibly cumbersome,” said Keith Lewis, TBS congregant and rabbi search committee chair. “Because our congregation is built on foundations of warmth, friendliness and strong relationships, it was challenging for both ourselves and the candidates to bridge the gap in the virtual world.

We wanted to find a rabbi who fit our unique culture that is embedded in our values of inclusive service, ruach (spirit), integrity, menschful membership, lifelong learning, acts of loving kindness and tikkun olam.”

Steinman accepted the senior rabbi position knowing the role supports her passion for social justice and continuing education, connects her with the rapidly growing Jewish community in Austin, and allows her to help guide congregants as they both search for and find meaning along their personal Jewish journeys.

“Temple Beth Shalom’s strength as a holy congregation is its people, the values-based decision-making that guides the leaders, and the commitments to continuing being a partner in Austin’s vibrant, growing Jewish community. As Temple Beth Shalom’s senior rabbi, it is my sacred responsibility to continue to build, develop, and enhance the ways that our Judaism can make our lives meaning-filled,” said Steinman.

“Rabbi Steinman seamlessly integrated herself into our culture in her first few months while also demonstrating other key characteristics that make a good rabbi great. She is organized, articulate, present, supportive, and respectfully voiced her opinions. She follows through on her commitments, is social media savvy, creates partnerships with staff, the board and her other rabbis, can write and deliver a powerful sermon, and provides empathetic pastoral care. There is much more to say about her, but I know that her efforts as our senior rabbi will tell the story best,” said Lewis.

Prior to joining TBS, Steinman served as visiting associate rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, Texas. After an extensive process by the TBS search committee, chaired by Keith Lewis, Steinman joined TBS in July 2021 as the part-time associate rabbi during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She then joined the congregation as a full-time associate rabbi. In June 2022, the congregation voted to offer the senior rabbi position to Steinman, and she accepted.

Established just over two decades ago, TBS is often considered a young congregation. Patti Bridwell, TBS executive director, says Steinman is the right person to lead, as her passion and energy match the standards set by TBS’ vision and mission.

“Over the past 22 years, and with deep gratitude to everyone who has had a hand in shaping our community, TBS has grown into an inclusive, diverse and robust community. No doubt, our congregation will continue to grow and change over the years, and our community is in very capable hands with Rabbi Steinman. Her leadership, passion, enthusiasm, knowledge, and values will ensure our temple stays true to its mission, vision, and values,” said Bridwell.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Steinman spent her teenage years in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. After graduating from Brandeis University with a Bachelor of Arts in history, she joined Avodah, a year-long social justice program. Through Avodah, she trained parents and volunteers as tutors in the New York City public schools.

In 2003, Steinman enrolled at the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion where she studied at the Jerusalem and Los Angeles campuses. She received her Master of Hebrew Letters degree in 2006, rabbinic ordination in 2008, and her Master’s Degree in Jewish Education in May 2012. Additionally, Rabbi Steinman served congregations in Toronto, Ontario, Los Angeles and as executive director of California-based non-profit organizations. Steinman maintains membership in the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Women’s Rabbinic Network, and the Association of Reform Jewish Educators.

Most recently, in 2023, she became Rabbi Dr. Steinman, when she completed her doctorate in Organizational Change and Leadership at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. Her dissertation explained the implementation of strategic planning in faith-based nonprofit organizations.

Now that Rabbi Steinman and her wife of seven years, Rabbi Denise L. Eger, feel settled into their Austin home and their new community, the TBS congregation is preparing for a joyful celebration during the winter holiday season marking this exciting clergy team transition. The service will honor TBS staff, students, volunteers and include a special performance by the TBS choir. This is an evening for all ages, with a catered Oneg after the service. This celebration partners congregants Carol and Sandy Dochen with Julie and Ari Franklin as planning co-chairs.

“Rabbi Steinman is a ‘rock star’ of her generation. Austin will be so fortunate to have her wisdom, leadership, and compassion guiding the future of your community. As a retired senior rabbi and mentor, I am honored to come to Temple Beth Shalom to install her in December,” said Rabbi Perlin.

“Rabbi Steinman is off to a great start advancing the warm and welcoming values of Temple Beth Shalom,” Carol and Sandy Dochen said. “Her ruach and scholarship, her rapport with new members and legacy members, are all very exciting for the future of Temple Beth Shalom and the entire Austin Jewish Community.”

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