SPRINGFIELD, NJ – On July 1, 2015, Temple Sha’arey Shalom hired a new spiritual leader, Rabbi Renee Edelman. In the short period that she has been at the congregation, she feels that the congregation has come together to heal many past wounds. Involved with Springfield’s Interfaith Council, the Clergy group, Family Promise and Helping the Homeless, Rabbi Renee, as she is called, is passionate about social justice not only in Springfield and her surrounding towns, but also human rights around the world. Her joyous spirit has touched many people in Springfield and many residents of Springfield and their bountiful love and care have also touched her.
When asked about Springfield, she tells you, “It feels like a community’s community. Everyone is connected and concerned about each other.” She likes how close the community feels to her. To her, it has a more of a small town feel in its values. The one that says, “We take care of each other.” She is working to help keep it that way.
One of the major outlets allowing her to meet “so many good” people in Springfield is through the Springfield Interfaith Clergy Association. In 2016, Temple Sha’arey Shalom hosted the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service the Monday before Thanksgiving. She was also very supportive of the “Homeless Vigil” held in December.
As Rabbi Edelman is outspoken in terms of social issues and how we communicate fairly. During the recent election season, she was targeted and received death threats. She specifically mentioned the police and the FBI as being very helpful. The experience has made her closer to many community leaders and other members of the community. She felt people became “…closer as a community and share values that are inherent as human beings.” She went on to say the experience made her feel even more strongly that, “We stand up for each other and protect each other.”
How did Rabbi Renee come to Springfield? She was born in Boston and attended Brandeis University where she majored in English and minored in Hebrew literature and did not plan to be a Rabbi when she was in college. She pursued a career in journalism and fashion, while continuing to teach Hebrew classes to children. Rabbi Ronne Friedman revisited the idea of Renee becoming a Rabbi, and it turned out to the right time. She was ready to commit.
In 1997, Rabbi Renee was ordained as a Rabbi and served as the Associate Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El of Westfield for many years. She continued to serve congregations in Port Washington NY, Bloomfield NJ, as a Cantor in Edison, NJ and filled in while a Reconstructionist Rabbi was on Sabbatical for a year. Before being ordained, Rabbi Renee attended both the Jerusalem and New York City campuses of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). -
While she was the Associate Rabbi, she learned of Sha’arey Shalom and now feels very blessed to by its spiritual leader, along with Cantor Amy Daniels.
On the website, she says she “…believes that her role is to create a communal atmosphere that acknowledges the B' tzelem Eloheim (image of God) inherent in every individual and to help each of us build meaningful connections to God, living Jewish tradition and to each other.” She will also tell you, “We are each responsible to Tikkun Olam – repair of the world.”
One of the cores of Judaism she lives by is”…to not be a bystander.” She thinks it is important when living in a community to share stories and better understand each other. When reading the website and listening to her, it is not surprise she is passionate about social action, education and spiritual living.
She is also passionate about children. She and her husband Shane have three children, a 13 year-old and eleven year-old twins. Shane has a PhD in Chemistry and a self-taught network engineer able to pass the Cisco exam after studying for just a year. In 2016, The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate was released and Rabbi Renee was one of its editors.
You can learn more about her and read some of her sermons on the website www.shaarey.org/staff.php