Although congregants are very familiar with their rabbis, they may not know much about the lives of the rabbi’s children.
The rabbi’s kids have an important role in the community, along with their parents. Synagogue members tend to view them differently than other kids around the same age.
“People look at you as a role model and an example and you have a responsibility as the son of a rabbi to fulfill,” said Ben Shafner, a Crossroads College Preparatory School senior and son of Rabbi Hyim Shafner of Bais Abraham. “Sometimes you might be [placed on a pedestal] because people think that you’re more knowledgeable because you’re the son of a rabbi.”
Congregants may also feel closer with a rabbi’s child than other members’ children. Rabbi’s kids recall that the congregation’s support for their parents oftentimes translates down to them, too.
“I feel a great sense of love from my congregation because my father is the rabbi. From the moment my family and I moved to St. Louis, congregants greeted us with open arms and helped us in so many ways,” said Noa Rose, a Whitfield School junior and daughter of Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose of Congregation B’nai Amoona. “In a way, my congregation is an extension of my family who loves, cares, and looks out for me and my siblings.”
Most temples have hundreds of congregants and only a few children of their rabbis. Therefore, the rabbi’s teenagers may not be as familiar with members as members are with them.
“Everyone at temple knows my name and [I do] not necessarily know theirs,” said Michelle Bennett, daughter of Congregation Shaare Emeth Rabbi Jim Bennett and a Parkway Central senior. “When I was younger this used to bother me, but I’ve gotten used to it.”
Having a parent double as a rabbi has many benefits, though. Rabbis and their families often get inside looks into their communities.
“Being a rabbi of a large congregation has given my father many connections within St. Louis,” Noa said. “Because of these connections, I have been able to participate in numerous activities and have been fortunate enough to receive many invitations to [various events].”
Another major advantage to having a rabbi for a parent is his or her guidance. When a teenager wants both Jewish and secular perspectives on an issue, a rabbi is always nearby to help. Although other Jewish parents may have a spiritual perspective, rabbis tend to be better versed in the Torah’s wisdom.
“When I have a question about Judaism, I just wait to ask at the dinner table,” Michelle said. “[This] often leads to [meaningful discussions] on Jewish values or Jewish history.”
Temple members may assume that children of rabbis want to follow in their parents’ footsteps for careers, but that isn’t always the case.
“You might be expected to take the same path that he took to become a rabbi, but you want to take your own path,” Ben said. “So, that can be interesting and sometimes difficult.”
None of the teenagers interviewed currently are looking to pursue a career as a rabbi, but not all of them have crossed the idea off completely. Michelle is considering studying religion in college.
“I have an interest in learning about Judaism and Jewish history,” Michelle said. “But at this point I have no idea in which profession I will end up.”
Overall, rabbi’s kids are comfortable with their positions in the congregation. They have always lived lives with a rabbi for a parent.
“Honestly, I do not know how my life differs from any other teen with a parent as a doctor or lawyer,” Noa said. “Having a rabbi as my parent is my normal. I still attend school, play sports, participate in youth groups, and attend synagogue just like any other Jewish teen.”