Stephen Wise Free Synagogue is excited to welcome our new assistant rabbi, Shira Gluck. Born in Haifa, Israel, Rabbi Gluck moved to New Jersey when she was two and a half. She has a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College in art history and Jewish studies, and was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion this year.
We sat down with Rabbi Gluck so we could get to know her a little better.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a rabbi?
A: My father is a rabbi and my mother is a Jewish educator, and as a young child I wanted be a rabbi, too. As I grew up I developed a passion for art and museums and decided to pursue a career in the art world. I spent my early 20s working at the Princeton University Art Museum and Random House.
Q: What was the “Aha!” moment for you?
A: After two years in publishing, I felt something was missing: I wanted to better integrate my Jewish identity and my work life, to connect with others, and have a direct impact in service to community. During the summer of 2013, I traveled with my family to Jerusalem while my father participated in a fellowship at the Shalom Hartman Institute. I was invited to sit in on a few classes. It was a transformational experience – I was awestruck by the depth of scholarship and the meaning the teachers drew from Jewish texts. That fall, I began researching rabbinical school programs and, in 2014, I enrolled at HUC-JIR.
Q: What was rabbinical school like?
It was rigorous and broadening in ways I had never anticipated. The teachers were excellent – not only in their command of the content, but also in how they communicated it. I am so fortunate to have been part of such a meaningful and supportive community.
Q: Tell us about your approach to being a rabbi?
A: Studying art history in college, I learned about visual analysis, a method that strips away what we know — names, dates, history — to better understand what we can see. Removing preconceived notions and judgments is foundational to who I am as a rabbi. It colors the way I look at text. Judaism has a long, rich tradition of interpreting text and there’s no right way to read it. And it’s how I begin to relate to other people. We can’t truly know what another person has experienced or is feeling, but we can listen deeply and with an open mind and heart, and then bring knowledge and experience to bear.
Q: What most excites you about joining the Stephen Wise community?
A: Stephen Wise is a place I deeply respect for its strong commitment to Judaism, Hebrew, and Israel. This is a serious, values-driven community comprising talented and justice-minded congregants. Its emphasis on deep thought, meaning, and worship makes Stephen Wise an exciting place for a new rabbi.
In my rabbinate here, I aspire to create spaces for young children where I can help cultivate their spiritual and emotional development. I want to help young families build Jewish homes and be role models for their children, and I want to empower individuals of all ages to connect with and own their Judaism.
Join us for Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday or stop by Stephen Wise this summer to meet Rabbi Gluck — she’s looking forward to meeting you!