Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn has grappled with her Jewish heritage her entire life, striving to find meaning from and connection with those she never knew as a child of survivors of the Shoah. She has sought and continues to seek a Judaism that provides a guide to a meaningful life, a life with a sense of purpose and obligation.

Coming from a home where the rhythm of life was that of the Jewish calendar, her family was warm, loving and functioned as a hearth for many who had no place to go. Her parents’ hospitality, and in particular, her father’s stories taught her the importance of treating others with respect and kindness.

Linda’s quest was reflected in both her Jewish and secular education. Extracting meaning that was consistent with the values imparted by her parents, at times Linda was at odds with the Judaism transmitted by institutions. At her Beis Yaakov Day School, she challenged the teachers about inconsistencies between what students were told they should do and the mitzvot. As a twelve year old, when her Conservative synagogue told her that after her Bat Mitzvah she would not be allowed on the bimah, she decided it was not the time to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah. However, her interest in her Jewish heritage never abated.

Linda began her inquiry into the Shoah as a Stuyvesant High School student, an exploration she continued with her senior project at the Academy and a topic which she hopes to continue to pursue in the future. At Franklin and Marshall College, majoring in theatre with a minor in religious studies, Linda was told by one of her favorite professors, a Congregationalist minister, that she ought to pursue the rabbinate. This path was simply not considered viable for her at that time.

Living in a world where multiple careers are typical, Linda s professional life included theatre, Jewish education and administration. It was Linda’s work as an informal Jewish educator at the Havurah School, synagogue president of Ansche Chesed and service leader that brought her to the rabbinate. But in truth there were key moments that pointed the way to this moment, including wearing a tallit for the first time while playing the role of the Rebbe in an avante garde production of the Dybbuk, while serving as the dramaturg and guide to all things Jewish for the production as a graduate student at Emerson College.

While serving as president of Ansche Chesed, Linda joined the staff at AJR. During her interview she was asked if she was interested in pursuing the rabbinate. Her immediate response was, “What do you think I am, crazy?” In her work at the Academy over the next number of years, she learned that it was not crazy at all. Linda became inspired by those around her and ultimately applied to become a student.

Numerous institutions supported Linda along the way, providing both roots and wings – The Covenant Foundation, at the beginning of her studies at the Academy, and later, Congregation Mount Sinai in Brooklyn as the assistant rabbi to Rabbi Joseph Potasnik. Linda currently serves as rabbi of Congregation Tehillah in Riverdale, New York, where she has found her spiritual home.