Rabbi Deborah Hirsch Keeps Her Congregants Close

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It's Deborah Hirsch's third year with the Temple Shaaray Tefila congregation, though she's been doing rabbinical work for 31 years, and the dedicated rabbi has a major project underway.

"We're working on a new vision statement for the congregation," explained Hirsch. "That's been a very gratifying project. We engage almost 200 congregants in conversation about what's important and valuable to them as part of our synagogue's community."

Additionally, Hirsch indicated her time spent teaching and engaging personally with family during life cycle moments as positive and meaningful experiences over the past few years at the temple.

Hirsch is hard-pressed though to think of any challenges facing the congregation. "My congregation is a great congregation," she said.

Personally, however, Hirsch's official position within the congregation is undergoing a big transition.

"We're doing a restructuring and my role will shift dramatically," explained Hirsch. "I will assume a new position as director of congregant life.

That involves trying to bring high touch to a large congregation by being the person individuals will first have contact with when they're looking for a synagogue."

Hirsch will also work with congregants internally, whether it's with regard to movement from nursery school to congregation, the B'nai Mitzvah process, helping parents with important moments in their lives or working with divinity programs to further enrich who they are.

In the coming years, Hirsch hopes to even better integrate congregants into the fabric of the congregation.

She described her mission, as the first point of contact, as making connections to the synagogue, while also helping people find their space within the synagogue structure, and making sure congregants continually receive the support of other clergy who provide services.

"Also I want to hopefully help congregants who have been there a long time feel continually engaged to the synagogue and Judaism," added Hirsch.

Though Hirsch certainly views her congregation as a larger, close-knit family, she also enjoys spending time with her own family, including her partner Carol and her grandchildren, the thirteenth of whom was just born a few weeks ago. Hirsch also has a home in the Berkshires which she calls "a home on many levels."
"Family is a big piece of what we have in our lives," said Hirsch. "Family and home are two very important pieces."

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