Dina Rosenberg, the new rabbi at B’nai Shalom of Olney, planned to become a chaplain because she loved helping people. But the California native quickly found herself drawn to the pastoral work of a congregational rabbi.
“What I realized is that I’m really good at being Jewish and teaching people about being Jewish,” said Rosenberg who, before rabbinical school, also thought about a career as a lawyer.
B’nai Shalom of Olney, a Conservative congregation of about 400 families, is a bit of a change for the 33-year-old rabbi, who came from a smaller congregation in Brooklyn with her fiancé, Mark, and their two dogs, Peanut Butter and Basil. When she visited before she was hired, she found a congregation “filled with a lot of laughter” and one that looks out for its members.
She brings with her a passion for making Judaism accessible to everyone. That’s another aspect of what drew her to B’nai Shalom of Olney, which she called a congregation “willing to meet people where they’re at instead of telling them where they should be.”
“What I want to do is help people realize that Judaism is not a thing of the past, but very relevant today,” she said. “And my job is to help people access it. In the 21st century, what can we do to keep the synagogue a central part of life?”
To that end, Rosenberg has ideas. The congregation has already set up a play area in the sanctuary for children during Shabbat services, and Rosenberg would like to see monthly family-friendly services, along with groups and events that bring younger families and older families together.
This first year, she wants the congregation to reach both in and out — in to involve more members and out to previous members and uninvolved young people.
This work is about becoming one community, she said, where everyone can see themselves represented — from young professionals and LGBTQ members to wellness classes and a superhero-themed family service later this month. As a long distance runner herself — she ran the New York City Marathon last year — she sees Judaism as a part of self-care.
“A big part of my rabbinate is that being observant is more than just prayer,” she said. “It’s taking care of your whole self.”