As we approach Mother's Day, and perhaps reconnect in person for the first time in a year, we are reminded of the importance of generations coming together. And while we recognize it can be a day of reflection, memories, and joy, we know it can bring complex feelings, too. This spring, we wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate ALL of the women who make WRJ special. We asked some of our WRJ "sisters" to share how being a part of this community has shaped their formative years, continues to be an integral part of their lives, and how WRJ inspires them to think about the future.
We hope these stories in our campaign, L'dor V'dor: From Generation to Generation, demonstrate your impact. Your support enables WRJ to reach thousands of women, youth, and people through our signature leadership education and Jewish programming. Join us in honoring these women and their families as they pass down sacred Jewish values. Please donate to this ever-growing community with a gift today.
Almost seven years ago, Rabbi Aaron Pankin, Ph.D., z"l, was inaugurated as the President of HUC-JIR in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I live. Because of my involvement in my congregation and WRJ, I attended many celebratory and ceremonial events during this meaningful weekend. Our daughter, Caroline, was then living at home with us, working, and figuring out what she should do with her life.
On the last day of the festivities, I was getting ready to attend a symposium with presentations and workshops offered by scholars and professionals from our movement. As I’m fixing my hair, I thought to myself, “I should bring Caroline; she might really enjoy this. It would be great for her to see and experience the intellectual acumen and diversity of those involved professionally in our Jewish universe. This could work for her. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?” Although I had not ever voiced my feelings openly to her (I’m The Mom), deep down, I had always felt that the rabbinate could be a viable career path for Caroline.
I ran into Caroline’s room, and amazingly, I convinced her to join me at the last minute. She quickly dressed, and we made it to the Symposium barely on time. Caroline was intrigued and interested. She stayed behind to ask questions and then ran into a friend of mine who Caroline had not seen in years. My friend, Susie, who happens to work for HUC-JIR, asked Caroline what she was up to. And Caroline answered, “I am going to apply to HUC to become a rabbi.”
Just like that. This was a surreal moment for me, and maybe for Caroline. I was so surprised. Pleased beyond words but also stunned. Regardless of my feelings, Caroline had never ever mentioned this as a possible career choice or calling in any of our discussions.
Susie immediately introduced Caroline to Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, standing not five feet away from us, who was Director of Recruitment for HUC at that time. Rabbi Beit-Halachmi told Caroline how to proceed. Caroline was accepted to HUC-JIR for her rabbinical training. The rest, as we say, is history. Caroline was ordained last year, in May 2020.
There are special moments in one’s pilgrimage as a parent – and this is one of my most magical experiences. At 8:30 AM on a Sunday morning, Caroline was searching for her life’s work and path. At 12:30 PM, Caroline had declared her intention to become a rabbi. Who knows what would have happened had I not almost dragged her to come with me to the Symposium? Had we not serendipitously run into Susie and Rabbi Beit-Halachmi? Neither of us would have been at the Symposium had I not been a WRJ Board member or so committed to Jewish life and practice. But the stars aligned, in a perfectly auspicious way, to give Caroline a moment of clarity to find herself and begin her very meaningful journey. Today, Caroline is delighted with her choice, and I am so happy that she has found her niche in life and a pathway for personal and professional fulfillment.
Karen Sim is WRJ's First Vice President and is a WRJ Central District Executive Board member. She serves on the URJ Board and as a member of the Board of Overseers for the HUC-JIR Central Region. She is a past president of her Sisterhood and is a board trustee of her congregation. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a member of Isaac M. Wise Temple and Isaac M. Wise Temple Sisterhood.
Rabbi Caroline Sim is the Director of Rabbinical Services at Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, MS. She is also in the process of becoming a Soferet, a Hebrew Scribe.