A TRIBUTE TO RABBI NANCY MYERS In honor of her 10th Anniversary at Temple Beth David – written by Keri Gee Semmelman

Posted on May 20, 2014 in Press

The number 10 has special significance within our history, observances, and overall heritage – the 10 Commandments being the most prominent and then it takes 10 Jewish people to make a minyan for prayer – to name rabbi-article-picjust a couple. It is this thought of “minyan” – of a communal group forming – that has special significance for Rabbi Nancy Rita Myers as she reflects on the past 10years as Rabbi of Temple Beth David.

It’s no surprise Rabbi Nancy loves being Jewish. During her childhood, it was a fun, creative, and meaningful experience.  For example, seders with her parents and two siblings included an animated telling of the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt. It’s a tradition that continues in Paul’s and Rabbi Nancy’s home with their own kids telling the Passover story in much the same joyful fashion.  During her youth, Rabbi Nancy was actively involved in Jewish youth groups yet still fit in service groups and competing in school sports such as swimming, track, and softball.

In her college years, she seriously considered pursuing a career in either psychology or law. The latter would be following in her dad’s footsteps. He had taken her to his law office many times during her childhood and realized early on she’d make a good attorney – with her analytical way of thinking, orator skills, and thirst for learning. Yet her career choice took a shift when she was inspired by some coursework and very thought provoking professors. She changed from psychology to philosophy enjoying the opportunity to question things more. This is an element in Judaism she so enjoys. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from State University of New York at Binghamton which included a semester in Jerusalem. She went on to complete her graduate work including a year of study in Israel through Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. Her thesis was “A Socio Political Study of Elijah del Medigo’s Examination of Faith” – about a Renaissance Jewish philosopher in Italy. Ordained as Rabbi in May 1997, she recalls feeling very humbled knowing there was so much more to learn that only time and experience as a Rabbi could give her.

Roles leading up to her ordination included being base person in Israel’s Golan Heights for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, a 5th and 6th grade teacher at a temple, student rabbi for congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and Rabbinic intern for Temple Israel in New York. After being ordained, she lead spirituality seminars on a Naval Base, taught conversion classes, and served as community coordinator for the Interfaith Collaboration of Emerging Leaders where she brought together Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Greek Orthodox youth to foster understanding and tolerance in the wake of September 11th.

Her first rabbinic role was at Temple Chai in Illinois where for six years she served as their Associate Rabbi.

Coming from a very large congregation to the more intimate Temple Beth David was something she very much looked forward to. She loves how caring, committed, and connected our members are. Her favorite moments are when she sees our diverse group of members of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds engaged together in prayer, learning, and enjoying holiday observances and temple activities. It truly is this closeness we share with one another and how committed we are to our Temple that means the most to her as she reflects on her past decade with us.

Some special moments our members have of our Rabbi are her spirited rendition of the seder story and her energetic storytelling on Family Shabbat service night, how personable and knowledgeable she is as she answers congregants’ questions on Ask the Rabbi Night (5th Friday), how she provides thoughtful comfort during difficult times, and her passion to teach us. Her creation of our Lasting Legacy Program and her term as President of the Orange County Board of Rabbis are among the many accomplishments she is well respected for. Most recently, she has become a regular columnist on Jewish topics for a variety of local media. Years before she wrote a chapter in The Women’s Haftarah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis.

During her rabbinical studies she was bestowed many awards from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. They include United Hospital Fund volunteer recognition, The Rabbi Hugo Hahn Memorial Prize for excelling in History, and The Dr. and Mrs. Henry Slonimsky Prize in Midrash.

Beyond her role at Temple Beth David, Rabbi Myers loves being a wife and mother. To see how supportive and involved her husband Paul and their children Gabriel and Shane are makes her rabbinic experience that much more enjoyable. She also loves the outdoors, hiking, doing karate, listening to rock ‘n roll, and cooking with a zest for trying out new recipes. Before she leads our Friday night services, she and her family enjoy a homemade Shabbat dinner at home. This is a tradition she carries on from her own childhood days.

Speaking of tradition, in our faith it is a mitzvah to thank G-d for our many blessings. Thus, “Thank you G-d for Rabbi Nancy Myers” for all the ways she has and will continue to bring love, learning, and life to our precious Temple Beth David family tree!