Rockaway At Work Rabbi Marjorie Slome, West End Temple

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Have you ever wondered what people do all day at their jobs?  I have, and that’s the basis for this column, Rockaway at Work.

I wondered what a rabbi does at work, and what Rabbi Marjorie Slome’s schedule was like. Contrary to popular belief, she doesn’t just work Friday nights and Saturdays, and she has many different roles at West End Temple.

On Sunday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon, and on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Rabbi Slome is the administrator of the religious school, advising teachers on curriculum, ordering supplies, and assisting in planning. “The purpose of religious school is to help make Jewish memories for kids. It is important that the curriculum is values-based, holiday-based, and fun,” she said. She leads a short prayer service during each session, giving the students a sense of the form and contents of the Jewish prayers, helping them to learn the prayers through repetition.

On Friday nights, Rabbi Slome co-leads the services with the student cantor, and delivers her sermon. Once a month, the service is earlier in the evening, family-based, and she encourages and assists the children in grades three to seven in leading the service.

On Saturday mornings, she leads a Torah study class. They engage in a discussion of the “Torah portion of the week,” and its connection to their lives. “The goal is to create community and have people share information as they manage their lives. If you see yourself struggling with the same things as our biblical ancestors, then you feel more connected,” Rabbi Slome said.

Rabbi Slome works six, and sometimes seven days per week. She officiates at funerals, weddings, baby-namings, and co-officiates at brises. She also visits homes or hospitals for sick congregants. Rabbi Slome says, “I love my job because every day is so different and so interesting. I get invited into the most joyous, and sometimes sorrowful and difficult times of people’s lives.”

During the week, she writes her sermon, and plans for the Saturday morning Torah Study. It is also her responsibility to write articles, including ‘The Rabbi’s Message’ column for the monthly Temple Bulletin. She researches Jewish-themed movies and books, and then runs the Jewish Movie Series and the Jewish Book Group. 

What impressed me about Rabbi Slome was her ability to make others feel comfortable talking, and unburdening themselves to her. Watching her talk with many people, I witnessed her ability to communicate the compassion and sympathy she felt. “I want my congregants to feel that my door is always open,” says Rabbi Slome. 

Rabbi Slome sees her role as “taking the best of Jewish traditions and passing it to anyone…children, adults, teens. I want to bequeath to the next generation a love of Judaism, and to help them make it a part of their lives.”  

Last week, on the holiday of Purim, the Temple celebrated with music and skits in between the chapters of the readings. Rabbi Slome, along with the student cantor and musical director wrote and directed the skits, which were performed by the students. Rabbi Slome got into the spirit herself by dressing up as the Joker from Batman.

Rabbi Slome says she couldn’t do her job alone. “There are many necessary moving parts in a synagogue. Our office staff members, Gail Rosenberg and Carol McKenna, play an important role in the day-to-day operations of the Temple, which could not function without them. I also work with excellent lay leadership to fulfill our mission and vision. They are the drivers of the Temple’s programs and direction. West End Temple’s Early Childhood Center enjoys a reputation on the peninsula due to its nurturing teachers and director. Equally important is our custodial staff, Louie Diaz and Elesio Rios, who tirelessly keep the physical plant operational.”

Rabbi Slome’s desire to become a rabbi did not start when she was young, because women were not allowed to be rabbis. But growing up in Ohio, her role models for social justice were the male student rabbis she studied with. After many years as a social worker in Jewish Communal Service, she went back to school, attending Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and in New York. She was ordained in 1987 and has been Rabbi at West End Temple (147-02 Newport Avenue) since January 2005.

Preparing for, and leading services, writing sermons, being available to congregants, officiating at funerals and weddings….Rockaway works hard.

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