Stephen Wise Free Synagogue is excited to welcome our rabbinic intern, Danielle Weisbrot! A rising fifth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Danielle is on the seminary’s Soup Kitchen’s leadership team and is a member of the Worship Working Group. She served for two years as the student rabbi at the North Fork Reform Synagogue on Long Island. Before entering rabbinical school, Danielle worked for a nonprofit in New York and earned a bachelor’s in English with a minor in Judaic studies from Dickinson College.
Danielle will be with us throughout the summer to learn about the day-to-day life of a rabbi as a part of our clergy team. Please join us in welcoming Danielle as she helps to lead Saturday morning services, facilitate adult learning opportunities, work on our annual Jewish Values Project ahead of the High Holy Days and more!
We sat down with Danielle so we could get to know her a little better.
Q: What was the moment when you realized you wanted to be a rabbi?
A: I’m not sure it was a single moment so much as a slow recognition that this is what I was supposed to be doing. I was working as an executive assistant and realized that I had plateaued at my job and wanted to keep growing. At the same time, I noticed I was spending a disproportionate amount of my work day counseling colleagues who came to me with their problems. Add to that my love of Hebrew, Jewish music and wisdom, Shabbat, learning, teaching and challah baking — and rabbinical school suddenly seemed like it had been waiting for me all along!
Q: What’s the most challenging part of rabbinical school? The most fun?
A: I think the most challenging part is finding enough hours in the day between taking six or seven classes a semester, working at a congregation — and then wanting to be at every campus t’filah, guest lecture, cantorial recital and Soup Kitchen meal service. The most fun part is being surrounded by an amazing group of classmates, colleagues and professors who are all just as excited as I am — and blessed with the same corny sense of Jewish humor.
Q: What’s something you’ve learned at HUC that really blew your mind?
A: I feel like that happens at least once a day… I guess an early example was learning that, since the “Kaddish” is written in Aramaic (not Hebrew), even many Israelis can’t translate it all on sight. The word “ba’agala,” for example, means “quickly” in Aramaic, but to a Hebrew speaker it can sound like you’re saying, “in the shopping cart.”
Q: What’s your favorite Jewish tradition?
A: Passover, hands down. My cousins usually host a big Seder (yes – even this year over Zoom) and we have a family tradition of making Passover t-shirts with funny sayings like, “Happiness is Egypt in my rearview mirror.” We also sing the order of the Seder to funny tunes before each step. Plus, parsley in salt water is delicious!
Q: What about being a rabbi are you looking forward to most?
A: I think the three main things I look forward to are building relationships with members of the congregation, sharing my knowledge and learning from others. I look forward to getting a small taste of that at Stephen Wise this summer!