(Editor’s note: this article was updated at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 7)
Rabbi Chana Leslie Glazer’s life has been defined by two “J”s, journalism and Judaism. She spent 15 years pursuing the former, working as a foreign correspondent. But in 2006, she chose to leave the industry in search of a new calling. It had been a decade in the making.
In 1997, she attended a free High Holiday service hosted by the Jewish Federation of Miami. There she experienced something that drew her closer to Judaism. Conducting the service was Rabbi Jody Cohen, the first female rabbi Glazer had ever seen.
“I got really inspired by her,” Glazer said. “And I saw myself becoming a rabbi. It took a lot of years for me to make good on that. A lot of doubts along the way. A lot of challenges. But it really did come true. And it was that moment, that vision, that really carried me through to where I am now.”
In July, Glazer became rabbi of Congregation Adat Reyim in Springfield. She follows Rabbi Bruce Aft, who led the unaffiliated synagogue for nearly 30 years until his retirement.
Glazer was ordained in 2013 at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa. Before coming to Adat Reyim, she did rabbinic work at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. She said Adat Reyim’s values are in line with her own.
“I knew that Adat Reyim was the place for me from the moment I read the job description. There is a really interesting diversity of practices at the congregation: Reform, Conservative, traditional, Reconstructionist, secular. And over the years, I have worked with all of those streams of Judaism or lived that lifestyle myself. As a rabbi, I am kind of a unicorn that way. And this community is a unicorn, too. We really get each other.”
Glazer grew up in an interfaith family in Centerport, N.Y. Before the rabbinate, her life’s calling was journalism. After college, she moved to Venezuela to gain experience, aided by her fluency in multiple languages. Today Glazer is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, German, Hebrew and English.
About a year later, she became Venezuela bureau chief for Bloomberg News. Four years after that, she moved to Florida to continue reporting on Latin America and the Caribbean.
Glazer said her time as a foreign correspondent has influenced her rabbinate today.
“I come at it with a lot of curiosity and a lot of respect. And the ability to listen and to hear, not just what people are saying, but also what’s underneath what they’re saying.”
Glazer said she doesn’t want to initiate any shakeups in her first few years at Adat Reyim. But she has added two new weekly programs: an exploring Judaism class for congregants and converts, and Meditation Minyan, which explores Jewish mysticism and spirituality. She’d also like to launch a parenting support group and group for interfaith fellowship and dialogue.
Eileen Kugler, a past president, said Glazer has had a positive impact on the congregation.
“It is amazing to see Rabbi Glazer’s warmth come right through the screen,” Kugler said. “In the first few months of online services and programs, members often commented in the Zoom chat, ‘We got the right rabbi.’”
“She has a way of introducing prayers and leading with intention that helps me to connect with the words on the page and allows them to really soak in,” said Andrea Cate, another past president. “I feel closer and more connected to my Jewish heritage than ever before and am excited to learn more from her.”