Or Haneshamah Hires Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton, Ottawa’s First Female Congregational Rabbi
OTTAWA, Ontario – March 15, 2013 – Or Haneshamah (OrH), is pleased to announce the hiring of Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton as the congregation’s first permanent rabbi.
“Hiring Rabbi Bolton is an important step forward for us as a congregation, and, we believe, for the city’s Jewish community,” said Jackie Lyons, co-chair of Or Haneshamah, which means Light of the Soul. “This marks the first time our 25-year-old community has hired permanent clergy, and Rabbi Bolton will also be Ottawa’s first female congregational rabbi. We welcome her joining us this July as our spiritual leader.”
“The opportunity to return to Canada and embrace this new challenge is literally a dream come true,” Rabbi Bolton said. “My mission is to guide Or Haneshamah’s spiritual growth, to reach out to the city’s unaffiliated Jews, to build bridges with other Jewish communities, and to be a Jewish presence as well as a voice for transformation and celebration across community boundaries."
Born in Montreal and fluently bilingual, Rabbi Bolton was the first permanent rabbi of Congregation Beit Tikvah in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1999 to 2012. Rabbi Bolton is passionate about multi-faith work, and hopes to establish a non-profit organization that will bring healing and dialogue through music.
In addition to her congregational expertise, Rabbi Bolton brings to Ottawa her skills as a teacher, singer and cantor. She earned a Bachelor in Fine Arts in music and women's studies from Concordia University, and then studied voice and opera at McGill University, the Banff Center for the Performing Arts, in Vancouver and Victoria, BC, and in Graz, Austria.
Following a successful first career as a singer in Canada, Bolton changed course. She moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to attend the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) and, following six years of study, was ordained as a Rabbi in 1996. She then served as rabbi of String of Pearls, a Reconstructionist congregation in Princeton, New Jersey, as chaplain at the Philadelphia Geriatric Centre, and as adjunct faculty at the RCC.
For Rabbi Bolton, music and faith combine naturally. She created and directed the Music and Liturgy Project for the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (JRF) for five years; her voice is heard on recordings linked to the JRF songbook Shirim Uvrahot: Nashir Unevareh, and the denomination's Sabbath and Festival prayer book Kol Haneshamah: Shabbat Vehagim.
Her Torah commentaries have been featured in newspapers in Canada and the United States, on the JRF website, as well as a chapter in The Women's Torah Commentary. Rabbi Bolton is a sought-after featured speaker, performer and master teacher at local, national and international Jewish programs on topics such as interfaith dialogue, GLBTQ/Faith issues, and transforming synagogue liturgy. She has also served as Scholar-in-Residence at synagogues across North America, teaching the history of Jewish liturgical music.
Or Haneshamah hires its first permanent rabbi
Will be first female rabbi to lead an Ottawa congregation
By Michael Regenstreif, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin
In what is a confluence of several ‘firsts,’ Or Haneshamah (OrH), Ottawa’s Reconstructionist congregation, has announced the hiring of Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton as its spiritual leader. Rabbi Bolton expects to be resident in Ottawa and serving OrH by July.
Rabbi Bolton will be the first permanent rabbi in the 25-year history of the congregation, which was known as the Ottawa Reconstructionist Havurah until it took the name Or Haneshamah in 2010. She is also the first female and first openly gay rabbi hired to be spiritual leader of an Ottawa congregation.
The rabbinate was a second career for Rabbi Bolton, who was born in Montreal, “where I had a wonderful, Jewish upbringing,” she told the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin in a telephone interview from her home in Baltimore, Maryland, where she served as the first permanent spiritual leader of Congregation Beit Tikvah from 1999 to 2012.
After attaining a bachelor’s degree in music and women’s studies from Concordia University, she trained in opera in Canada and Austria and embarked on a successful career as a singer and singing teacher in Montreal and then Toronto in the 1980s.
Soon after her 1985 move to Toronto, she was hired as a High Holy Days singer at Holy Blossom Temple, Canada’s largest Reform congregation. She later served as cantorial soloist at Toronto’s Temple Emanu-El and studied chazanut with the renowned Cantor Louis Danto.
While she considered becoming a cantor, she was drawn to the rabbinate and to the Reconstructionist movement, and entered the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. Following six years of study, Rabbi Bolton was ordained in 1996.
After more than two decades in the United States, Rabbi Bolton, a single mother of two, said she is returning to Canada and moving to Ottawa and the post at OrH “with glee” and is looking forward to working with the congregation, with the broader Jewish community, and with the greater Ottawa community. In Baltimore, she was involved in inter-faith dialogue and GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual) initiatives and is looking forward to continuing that work here.
Asked about her acceptance as a woman rabbi by peers from more traditional denominations, Rabbi Bolton noted she has served for the past 13 years in Baltimore, home to a largely traditional Jewish community, where she was welcomed as a colleague by Orthodox members of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis.
“There is a sense of mutuality and respect accorded, as is appropriate,” she said. “I have very comfortably consulted with Orthodox and Conservative colleagues. We have also studied together … and engaged together in a lot of social issues ... and, where there are differences, we don’t gloss them over.”
Asked about her initial priorities on taking up her post at OrH, Rabbi Bolton said “Listening, listening and singing” were at the top of her agenda.
“Assessing our strengths, learning more about the needs of the community and developing a shared understanding of our visions, goals and values as the Reconstructionist congregation in Ottawa,” she elaborated.
For most of its history, all services at OrH were led by members of the congregation. Beginning nine years ago, though, the congregation has worked with a series of visiting rabbinical students who typically would be in Ottawa for the High Holidays and for one weekend Shabbaton per month through the year. Now, OrH, whose membership currently numbers about 75 families, is looking forward to welcoming its first permanent rabbi.
“We’re very excited we’re going to have her with us,” OrH hiring committee spokhttp://orh.ca/modules/fckeditor/fckeditor/editor/skins/default/fck_strip...); background-position: 0px -320px;" alt="" />esperson Mark Dermer told the Bulletin.
Dermer said the congregation decided to hire a permanent rabbi to meet the ongoing pastoral needs of the congregation and because the normal rhythms of a congregation could not be compressed into two days per month.
The dynamics of the congregation will change, Dermer predicted.
“The important aspects of having the rabbi as teacher, rabbi as pastoral support, rabbi as [an expression of] identity of the congregation for how Or Haneshamah connects with the rest of Ottawa’s Jewish community, and also how Or Haneshamah connects with the network of 105 Reconstructionist congregations across North America – all of that builds diversity and strength,” Dermer said.
With a permanent rabbi, Dermer added, OrH will now be able to normalize such life-cycle events as marriages, “which don’t normally happen in the purview of a Shabbaton,” and funerals, which can happen at any time.
published April 8, 2013, copyright Ottawa Jewish Bulletin and Jewish Federation of Ottawa
SERVICE: May 18: Member Led Renewal Service: Service leader: Jonathan Wouk: 9:30 a.m. Please stay for a pot luck lunch and bring a vegetarian contribution.
SERVICE June 4: Shabbat Student Rabbi Alanna Sklover to Lead Services: 9:30 a.m. Please stay for a potluck lunch and bring a vegetarian contribution.
On Thursday, May 30th, the Ottawa delegation going to the 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel this summer invites you to its Israeli Wine Evening, an evening of celebration and fundraising sponsored and hosted by caterer extraordinaire David Smith at the Agudath Israel Synagogue, 1400 Coldfrey Avenue. A $50 ticket buys you a cocktail reception, food & dessert bar, sommelier-led Israeli wine tasting, fabulous silent auction, and guest speakers Bernie Farber and Warren Kinsella. For more information & to buy tickets, please go to the the Maccabi Canada website: http://www.maccabicanada.com. Scroll to the bottom of the homepage and click on the Israeli Wine Evening icon. Your receipt will be emailed and serves as your ticket. All proceeds support Canada's participation in the Maccabiah. For more information, contact Lynne Dee Sproule, at 613 730 2334.
Hillel Lodge is looking for volunteers. There is an urgent need for volunteers who can accompany residents to medical appointments. Vehicle is not required. If you are interested in this volunteer opportunity please contact Melissa Milito, Volunteer Administrative Assistant at:
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