Jarrad Saffren | Staff Writer
Rabbi Sarah Krinsky, 32, is associate rabbi at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. With about 1,700 member families, it’s one of the biggest congregations in the country.
“I genuinely feel like it’s a privilege to do the work I do. I think I love my job as much as a human can love their job,” Krinsky said. “The fact that people invite us into these sacred, joyous, difficult, intense moments of their lives. It never ceases to amaze me.”
What’s it like to be a rabbi in a generation in which many people are not yet embracing synagogue life like their elders did?
I have a friend in New York who signed up for an intergenerational discussion group. That’s what I wish synagogues were. I have friends at Adas who are 10 and who are 103. There’s a richness to that. My friends who are outside of synagogue life have friends who are within a five-year difference.
What other innovations can make synagogue life more appealing to younger adults?
Making space for them to be their whole selves. One of the things I’ve learned from senior rabbis is the more we model that, the more we have permission to do that.
Once we can get past whatever associations people think a synagogue is and actually get people here, my experience is that it resonates. Who isn’t searching for somewhere where they can be themselves with joy, meaning and purpose?
Last year I started a class called Second Circles for couples who are engaged or in long-term committed relationships. It was to help people prepare for weddings and marriage and life together. Seven classes. We looked at the wedding ceremony. Where does it come from? What’s it about? And then in the second half of the class we had a psychologist who specializes in couples counseling lead discussions on relational issues. We talked about the breaking of the glass. We also talked about brokenness and previous traumas and how they show up in relationships. I did a session on exchanging rings and communication. It makes space and permission for all the good and bad people bring to this process and it does it in community with other people. I work with 20 couples a year. I said, “They should be friends with each other.” I think we had like 30 couples.
You had a son in June 2022 and stayed out on maternity leave until November. But you did attend High Holiday services with the rest of the congregants. What was that like?
It was just so wonderful. “I miss these people. I miss this place.” Adas life is something we so want for our children. To be able to bring him here and bring those parts of our lives together, it was a feeling of being home. It genuinely feels like a spiritual home for us. And I feel really grateful for that.
I don’t think all rabbis would choose their community as a spiritual home. But I definitely would.
You said you felt that sense of community even while you were home. Why was that?
Friends were sending me meals for four months. I had to cut it off. I said, “I can make food now.” That’s what it means to be in community. My sister lives in New York City and said if she had been on maternity leave, maybe like two people would have sent her DoorDash. My neighbor said, “You made us feel insecure. You must have so many friends.”
You discussed in a previous WJW article that it was your first post-college job, with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, that exposed you to the work of rabbis and that made you want to become one. But does it go back further than that? Did you feel that desire even as a child?
My family was really involved in our synagogue and I went to Jewish camp. I had a thick Jewish home. And I remember sometimes when we’d go to a bookstore I’d go to the religion section and want to read them. That’s not normal (laughs).
You’re happy at Adas Israel. What do you want to do there in the coming years?
I think I’m trying to cultivate skills and an ability to be present with myself and things that matter to me. ■