Margaret Klein

The dream of becoming a rabbi, according to a note that Margaret’s eighth grade teacher wrote, began with her Bat Mitzvah. A college Simhat Torah celebration was so full of joy and life that she called her parents and told them she wanted to be a rabbi to bring that kind of joy to other people. While her parents recognized her teaching and leadership ability, they did not understand the religious dream. They were passionate about Jewish ethics, social ethics and critical thinking.

Her dream of being a rabbi took a back seat as life intervened. Although always active in the Jewish and wider community, she wasn’t the rabbi. She worked as the educational director in three Hebrew schools and as a marketing consultant for high technology companies. She married. Together with her husband, raised a family, owned a business, worked on social action issues, studied Hebrew and had late night conversations about God.

The dream of being a rabbi never went away. She wanted to make more of a difference in the world than she could working for Fortune 500 technology companies. A clergy friend told her that it was time to “fish or cut bait.” The Academy for Jewish Religion with its commitment to pluralism and second-career students provided a viable path. Although many saw the obstacles, she focused on the opportunity as a gift and privilege to study with amazing teachers and students who share her passion for Judaism and its relevance today. She unearthed the meaning and beauty of ancient texts, discovering the traditional codes could answer a question about the kashrut of composting.

The reason to pursue this dream was to continue her work on social justice issues. She sees her role in the rabbinate as being a bridge builder and peacemaker, explaining Judaism to the outside world. Being the chair of the Tzedek Committee at the Academy brought new focus to that dream. The Rally to Save Darfur, being the rabbi for a congregation in Germany, working for Habitat for Humanity and speaking at interfaith conferences throughout the Merrimack Valley helps fulfill the dream.

Her internships, with Refugee Immigration Ministry, The Heritage at Cleveland Circle and Congregation Shalom, taught her that being with people in the moment is more important than working on issues. Providing a manicure for a hospitalized grandmother, making deviled eggs for shiva, bringing a congregant challah and daffodils on Friday, helping a Bar Mitzvah student design his own tallit, facilitating conversions or life transitions at Mayyim Hayyim, listening to people’s stories – these are about creating sacred time and space. She dreams of teaching that Judaism has a place for everyone, created and loved by the Divine. Finding that love is how people find joy.

She thanks everyone who has made today possible. Rabbis Albert M. Lewis and Neil Kominsky inspired and mentored her and wouldn’t let it the dream go out. The Greater Lowell Interfaith Leadership Alliance, the GenEx Bible Discussion group, and the Friday volleyball gang allowed her to explore and articulate her faith. Meg and Steven Roberts opened their home to her, and Barbara Fiore fed her. Rabbis Bernard Zlotowitz and Peg Kershenbaum nurtured her senior thesis. Bernhard Ritz, Christian Hofer, and Leonard Fuld allowed flexible work schedules enabling full time work and study. Friends provided phone lines that were always open. Chevruta partners and retreat roommates, faculty and administration at the Academy wrestled with the texts, taught her to daven and became friends. Most especially, thanks go to Simon and Sarah who gave up much and never gave up allowing us to reach this joyous moment.