Rabbi Sandy Rosenstein – Breaking ground as a woman rabbi

Rabbi Sandy Rosenstein addresses the crowd during her ordination. Courtesy photo
Rabbi Sandy Rosenstein addresses the crowd during her ordination. Courtesy photo

It takes tremendous effort to plan and initiate a religious service each week, and in the Conservative/Masorti Jewish congregation, Temple Beth Sholom, the key person behind that effort is Rabbi Sandy Rosenstein. The congregation, which was formed in Sun City 51 years ago, now holds their services in Temecula.

Compassionate as well as spiritual, their leader is well-trained for her tasks. From an early age, she knew that she wanted to serve others, and that desire led to the dedication of her life to spiritually guide others, as well as to help alleviate their emotional pain.

“I have always felt like serving people. I was always trying to figure out how to serve. I can’t imagine not feeling the need to help,” she said.

Rosenstein was raised in a Conservative Jewish home in Los Angeles, but never expected to be a rabbi. In those days, it was a dream that was out of range for a woman. In 1935 Regina Jones was ordained privately in Germany, but it wasn’t until 1972 that the first woman rabbi was ordained in the United States. Rabbi Sally Priesand paved the way for others in the country. Conservative Judaism has embraced women rabbis since Priesand broke through the prejudice.

As congregational president of Temple Beth Sholom, Rosenstein performed many duties. She did her job so well that the temple’s student rabbi, Matt Rosenberg, encouraged her to attend rabbinical school. She was ordained from the Academy for Jewish Religion, California – a seminary in Los Angeles – and also, earned a master’s degree.

Her husband, Temecula Attorney Robert Rosenstein, was very supportive of her journey to become a rabbi and when she attained the goal, he was very proud of her, she said.

Rabbi Sandy Rosenstein poses for a photo after her ordination with her husband, Robert Rosenstein. Courtesy photo
Rabbi Sandy Rosenstein poses for a photo after her ordination with her husband, Robert Rosenstein. Courtesy photo

“I couldn’t have done it without him,” she noted. “The school was in LA, and from the crack of dawn on Sunday I was gone, and didn’t come home until Tuesday night.”

Rabbi Rosenstein wrote her master’s thesis on “Processing Grief in the 21st Century – The Benefits of Traditional Jewish Mourning Practices.” The extensive research and writing done for this project help to make her an expert on how to help survivors manage the pain.

She also counsels her congregants on other spiritual issues and offers a spiritual support group on Wednesdays.

“I counsel – with great pleasure – it is one of my very favorite things to do,” she said. “I help people figure out where they are – and figure out where they want to go.”

In addition to her work with the congregation, Rosenstein founded a one-on-one spiritual care practice where people can be counseled, for a fee.

“Some people come to see me when they have suffered a loss – the loss of a driver’s license or retirement. I usually work with middle-aged and up but am happy to help anyone,” she said.

She also encourages people to become part of their spiritual community.

“When you are part of the community you are more whole and when you are more whole, you feel better, can manage everything better and you don’t feel isolated,” she explained.

Prayer is a significant aspect of Temple Beth Sholom services. Their prayer book is written in Hebrew and English. When asked how congregants learn Hebrew, she said, as children they go to Hebrew school. Temple Beth Sholom also offers Hebrew classes.

Rosenstein spends a great deal of time in sermon preparation.

“I try to find some correlation between the Torah reading and the people who are listening,” she related. “I try to make it relevant. Sometimes I make many drafts to get something that I think is worth hearing. I work hard to make it relevant while holding onto the traditions.

“The challenge is giving people information and then inspiring them to make good choices,” she said.
I help people move forward. I meet them where they are, not where I want them to be.”

Rosenstein shared her thoughts on the “still small voice” of God.

“I think intuition is God’s ‘still small voice.’ I think that God whispers to us all the time, and we have to be open to hearing it,” she said.

When asked about a timeline for her career as a rabbi, she replied, “I am not retiring until I am 80. I still have a lot of work to do. Twenty years’ worth of work. I am still surprised that I am a rabbi, and it is the perfect fit. It just goes to show that God knows what God is doing – even if we don’t.”

Temple Beth Sholom services are held Friday nights at 7:30 p.m. followed by an Oneg Shabbat; and Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. followed by a Kiddush lunch.

Temple Beth Sholom of Temecula is located at 26790 Ynez Court, Suite B in Temecula. The congregation has dedicated space in the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce Building.

For more information, call (951) 679-0419 or visit, www.tbstemecula.org.

*Temple Beth Sholom will be conducting High Holy Day services open to Jewish and Jewish inter-faith families.

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