By Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields
Among the sweeping changes we’ve implemented in our centennial year, we are honored to welcome Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields as our new Executive Director. Here, Rabbi Wolintz-Fields offers her own reflections on this momentous transition.
People have often asked me, “When and why did you know you wanted to be a rabbi?” My desire to teach Torah to everyone who would listen began when I was in preschool. I loved to play dress up ‘rabbi,’ using a white scarf as a tallit, and taking one of my father’s yarmulkas, and belting out the prayers by heart. At that point, the idea of women being ordained as rabbis in the Conservative Movement was a change desired by many, but it did not become a reality until I was at least Bat Mitzvah age. I wrote “Conservative Rabbi” under my high school yearbook picture and, after studying for nine years in Morningside Heights, New York City, I was able to achieve four degrees: a BA in Religion from Barnard College; and three from the Jewish Theological Seminary – a BA in Talmud; an MA in Jewish Women’s Studies, and Rabbinic Ordination.
It has been another dream come true that I am now the first rabbi to serve as Executive Director of Women’s League for Conservative Judaism. I have always wanted to be able to say that, as a feminist with a degree, I lead the movers and shakers of the Conservative Movement: The women who lead our synagogues. Just as my initial desire to be a rabbi was influenced by my wish to teach Torah, it still holds true today. My mission is to lead our Women’s League members on a journey to find their own personal relationship with God, Torah, and Israel, as it remains a relevant part of all aspects of our lives. In this issue of New Outlook, we see how members of Women’s League have done holy work, to give to others, and, at the same time, they have received in return. They have created their own personal relationship with God, Torah, and Israel, by doing their acts of loving kindness, by their acts of social action, by tikkun olam: repairing the world.
If you ever need to find inspiration – to figure out how you can find a personal relationship with God, Torah, and Israel, to leave your mark in this world – I suggest you listen to the song, “I Was Here” by Beyoncé. I first heard this song when it was requested to be played at my cousin’s funeral, and it is one of the most inspiring songs I have ever heard. All of the profits from this single’s release went to World Humanitarian Day. Its lyrics seem especially apt for the amazing achievements of our members of Women’s League, especially the projects which are featured in this issue of New Outlook.
I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time
Know there was something that, meant something that I left behind…
I was here…I lived, I loved…I was here…
And know that I meant something in somebody’s life
The hearts I have touched will be the proof that I leave
That I made a difference, and this world will see
Let us all leave our footprints in the sands of time. We have just begun to make a difference! Here’s to our next 100 years! We are here! To our amazing future together!
Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields currently writes “Weekly Words of Torah” for use in Women’s League sisterhoods. She wrote her BA thesis on God, Women and Tefillin and her MA Thesis on A Generation After Ezrat Nashim’s Jewish Women Call for Change and has previously been published in Women’s League Outlook, among other publications. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.