Rabbi Heidi Hoover

Growing up outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the daughter of a German teacher and a Lutheran pastor, Rabbi Heidi Hoover never would have guessed that the rabbinate was in her future. She studied creative and professional writing at Carnegie Mellon University, and that is where she met Michael T. Rose, who would later become her husband.

Through Mike, she became involved at Central Synagogue in Manhattan, first joining the Central Issues Group, an organization for young professionals. Because the group would informally go out to dinner after services on Friday nights, Heidi began attending Shabbat evening services, and soon she was going to services for their own sake. Her love of Judaism was kindled and began to grow. Some of the aspects of Judaism that drew her to it were the home-centered rituals of Judaism; the emphasis on questioning and learning; the focus on engaging and teaching children; the feeling of community and relationship among Jews; and the idea that multiple interpretations of sacred texts, even contradictory ones, can be simultaneously valid. After about four years, it was clear that she and Mike would eventually get married, and that their children would be Jewish, but Heidi did not believe she could ever convert to Judaism.

A family crisis changed that, when Heidi found that it was Jewish tradition she turned to for comfort in that difficult time. She realized that she had become Jewish, and began the process of conversion to make it official. On March 12, 1999, Heidi was evaluated by a bet din and went to the mikvah, joyfully emerging as a Jew.

Heidi had felt a pull toward the rabbinate even before she decided to convert to Judaism, and regretted that it was a path not open to her because she wasn’t Jewish. Once she converted, however, the way was clear, and she began to study at the Academy for Jewish Religion in February of 2002. For Heidi, the rabbinate combines everything she is interested in and passionate about: Judaism (of course), studying and learning, teaching, working with both adults and children, counseling, public speaking and performing. Her other reason for wanting to be a rabbi is harder to explain: she believes strongly that it is what God wants her to do with her life.

The nine years Heidi has spent studying at AJR have been transformative. It was a long time to be in school, and it sometimes felt like she would never finish. However, those nine years of study helped her develop her intellect, knowledge, and understanding under the tutelage of wonderful teachers and with fellow students who pushed her to learn and grow. She is grateful for them. While there is always so much more to learn and explore, she is now ready to continue that process as a rabbi.

Heidi serves as the rabbi of Temple Beth Emeth v’Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek in Brooklyn, New York, where she was the rabbinic intern as a student.