Rabbi Ariann Weitzman

Ariann’s love of Judaism began in kindergarten at the San Diego Jewish Academy, a pluralistic day school. It was at this young age that she first started learning Hebrew and Jewish practice and began to fall in love with Jewish tradition. In the fifth grade she began religious school at Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn, New Jersey, and developed strong and warm relationships with her teachers and Rabbi Steven Bayer. It was there that she first began to admire the pulpit and imagine herself in it. Upon her bat mitzvah, she decided to continue her education first at Prozdor and then the newly formed Hebrew High program at B’nai Israel. She also enjoyed attending adult Torah study led by Rabbi Bayer and began to serve as an aide in the religious school.

After high school, Ariann began her undergraduate studies at Case Western Reserve University with the goal of becoming an astronomer. For two years, she participated only occasionally in Hillel activities. Ariann was awed and overwhelmed by her encounter with her first Hillel rabbi, Carie Carter. Rabbi Carter was among the first rabbis to teach her that Judaism was not separate from her values of feminism and social justice, but could be the truest and most authentic expression of those values and a force for changing the world. Ariann remembers very distinctly a kabbalat Shabbat service in which Rabbi Carter led the service wearing a t-shirt saying I’m Pro-Choice and I Pray.  It was through this experience that Ariann came to realize that being a Jewish leader would permit her to be the person she wanted to be and that Judaism needed to be more to her than a part-time hobby. As time passed, Ariann became increasingly active in Hillel, singing in its a capella group, learning to lead services, and becoming a full member of its student leadership. Ariann made the decision to follow her childhood impulse toward the rabbinate during her junior year and got to work immediately on preparing for her new educational path. When Rabbi Jonathan Freirich replaced Rabbi Carter at Hillel, Ariann began a weekly Hebrew study session with him. After graduating, she spent the next three years developing her synagogue skills and knowledge of the Hebrew language.

In 2002, Ariann returned to New Jersey and became actively involved at Congregation Beth Hatikvah. Under the guidance of Rabbi Amy Small, she developed her skills as a leader and teacher and eventually became the congregation s rabbinic intern. During her six years at AJR, Ariann was privileged to participate in a variety of learning settings inside and outside of the classroom. Her experiences in Interseminary Dialogue, Panim, Muslim-Jewish Dialogue, and the American Jewish World Service’s Rabbinical Student Delegation were particularly formative. Ariann grew as a spiritual presence in her two units of clinical pastoral education and two years serving as a chaplain at Federation Plaza and Arden Courts in West Orange, New Jersey.

Among the most important gifts of this spiritually challenging education has been a constant push to more fully and coherently vocalize and live out her truth. While it is impossible to recount the innumerable pieces of knowledge gained during her education, she is most profoundly grateful for the growth in her ability to learn and to discern and hopes that this is only the beginning of a path toward wisdom.