Shankman named senior rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation

Rabbi Susan Shankman. Photo by Lacey Johnson

Rabbi Susan N. Shankman has been named senior rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation. On Aug. 25, members voted to approve her nomination. She becomes the first female senior rabbi at the 170-year-old Reform congregation.

Shankman has been a member of the congregation’s clergy for 21 years, according to a release. She “joins a female leadership team that includes Executive Director Lindsay Feldman and Senior Cantor Susan R.A. Bortnick,” the release stated.

Shankman succeeds Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig as senior rabbi. Lustig announced last September that he was stepping down from day-to-day duties. Shankman and Bortnick informally provided “leadership, strength, and continuity during this period of transition,” according to a FAQ page on the synagogue website.

At the time of his announcement, Lustig said he will return to lead high holiday services in 2022 and then retire as rabbi emeritus. On July 1, 2022, he became senior rabbi emeritus. With Shankman now senior rabbi, she will lead high holiday services, although all the clergy will be involved in the multiple service that take place in Washington Hebrew Congregation’s District and Maryland locations, according to the synagogue.

Rabbi David Saperstein, former U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom said, “Rabbi Shankman is respected for her personal warmth and thoughtfulness even as she is so widely admired for her pastoral, teaching, preaching, programmatic and social justice skills.”

In a January essay celebrating 50 years of women in the rabbinate, Shankman wrote, “I was raised to believe that women could be and do anything. In a family with a legacy of rabbis that could be traced to the 14th century, that provided a deep sense of empowerment and the knowledge that I could continue that family tradition, albeit in a new way.”

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