Rabbi Rachel Bearman has joined Congregation Shaare Emeth as the temple’s new associate rabbi.
Bearman started at Shaare Emeth on July 7. She previously served for six years as the sole rabbi at B’nai Chaim, a small reform congregation in Georgetown, Conn. She made the long drive from Connecticut to Missouri with her corgi Vashti and said that she’s excited to be at Shaare Emeth.
“The congregation has been so wonderful and welcoming,” she said. “Especially in this crazy time when we can’t be together. There’s real potential to feel like a new person with no connections in a new city, but they’ve been so present with bringing me food and writing welcome letters.”
Bearman says she’s excited to be back in the Midwest. She grew up in Memphis, Tenn., and her family has been an active part of the Memphis Jewish community for seven generations. Her great-great-great-great-grandfather was a founding member of Temple Israel, the only Reform congregation in Memphis.
Bearman said she decided that she wanted to be a rabbi when she was 16.
“It was one of those big lightbulb moments,” she said. “Up until then, I had wanted to be a teacher and a synagogue president. And when I was 16, I realized there was a job that would allow me to be both a teacher and a synagogue leader. And it clicked for me then, and I really went after it with everything I have.”
After Bearman graduated with honors from Middlebury College, she completed her rabbinical studies at Hebrew Union College in 2014. Bearman is a co-author and co-founder of Midrashic Monologues (midrashicmonologues.com), a project that works to restore the voices of biblical women and men who have not had the opportunity to speak.
Rabbi James Bennett, senior rabbi at Shaare Emeth, said: “We were drawn to Rabbi Bearman because of her personality and her experience and her skills as a well-rounded and wonderful rabbi to us. And the fact that she had successfully led a congregation of her own for six years was a great attraction.”
Shaare Emeth’s former associate rabbi, Jonah Zinn, became executive director of the University of Florida Hillel last year. Bearman brings Shaare Emeth’s clergy team back to full staff. She will also have a special focus on teens and young adults in the congregation
Bearman was the perfect choice for Shaare Emeth, Bennett said.
“She’s very creative, she brings fresh new ideas,” he said. “She has some really exciting ideas about how to connect to people, how to build community, ways to help people learn and grow and worship as a congregation. In just every way, we just felt she’s a natural for the congregation. We’re so excited that she’s here.”