News, Views, and Information about Disability

Disability News, Views, Information, and Literature

Monday, April 15, 2013

Traumatic Brain Injury Leads to Surprising Partnership between Two Portland Rabbis

An article in today's Jewish Daily Forward tells the tale of Rabbi Alice Goldfinger and Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld, a Reform and an Orthodox rabbi in the Portland Maine area. Goldfinger lives with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) which she sustained in 2009. The TBI ended Goldfinger's career as she knew it as the rabbi of a Reform congregation. However, Herzfeld reached across the denominational and gender divide to invite Goldfinger to lead services at his Modern Orthodox synagogue.

Both rabbis were interviewed for the article:
“It’s irregular and out of my comfort zone,” [Herzfeld] said, looking at Goldfinger. “But it was important to let her know that I was with her in her struggle to be strong and… that I was going out of my comfort zone —” 
“And that’s when he said, ‘One of us had to be uncomfortable; why should it have to be me?” Goldfinger interrupted, referring to a quote she included in her moving nomination of Herzfeld for the Forward’s America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis series, which appeared in March. 
“I tried to imagine what it would be like for me to be a female Reform rabbi. I thought, what if I were her and she was me? I would want him to ask me to lead services,” said Herzfeld, 34, who joined Shaarey Tphiloh, Maine’s oldest synagogue, five years ago. 
“Women’s issues in Orthodox Judaism are controversial,” he said bluntly, “but it was important to do this for her — for our synagogue to know that we have a rabbi coming and we will respect her, and realize that she continues to be a religious leader even if she doesn’t have the position of rabbi of a large synagogue.”
Read the rest of the article.

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