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Rabbi Sarah DePaolo

Assistant Rabbi
The Jaffe Family Rabbinic Chair

Although I have spent the last five years studying to become a rabbi, in fact I have been working towards this goal for much longer. I grew up in a congregation where social justice and the value of tikkun olam (the Jewish mission to heal the world) were a priority. After graduating from Vassar College, I began working in local and national politics, as I tried in my small way to contribute to the eternal mission to make the world a little bit better. However, a sense of greater fulfillment was often missing from my work in politics. So I looked to my Jewish heritage and began to seriously consider becoming a rabbi. During the years before entering Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), I worked as the executive assistant for the CEO of a large Jewish nonprofit in New York. My time there was invaluable, as I learned about many of the discussions of great concern to the Jewish world. Among them, demographics, membership, and building communities of belonging. Then, in rabbinical school, I took my education and these varied experiences and built upon them as a rabbinic intern at Columbia/Barnard Hillel and at Temple Shaaray Tefila, a large suburban Reform congregation in Northern Westchester. 
I hope to bring to SHM all the education and skills that I have developed over the years from these different places and people that I have had the honor of working with and learning from. I am so excited to be a part of your warm and caring community, as it goes through the exciting transition in creating a new space for worship, education, and coming together. In March, when I came out to visit and interview, I quickly saw and felt that SHM was a very special congregation, and I am grateful and very excited to be joining you.
On a personal note, some of you may already know that just a few weeks after my ordination from HUC-JIR, and very shortly before beginning my time with you, I got married! My husband, David Bernstein, and I are both lifelong New Yorkers. We grew up in the suburbs of New York City, both graduated from schools in New York state, and began our relationship as adults living in Manhattan. Though we loved our home in New York, we have always talked about living in another place, and are very much looking forward to learning as much as there is to know about our new home in California. We love good food and exploring. As we get settled, we hope you will share with us some of your favorite haunts in and around Irvine and what you love about the area.
As I was applying to congregations this past winter, I shared the story of the tallit clips I found a few years ago. These clips symbolize for me how I see myself as a rabbi for a community. They have the words Choshen Mishpat—“Breastplate of Decision”—imprinted on them in Hebrew and represent the special breastplate that Moses’s brother, Aaron, wore when he performed his duties as High Priest. Below the printed words are twelve little stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. When I wear the clips, I feel that I carry the Jewish people close to my heart. The clips remind me that I represent all of you, and impel me as a Rabbi to truly know my community so that I can better serve as a spiritual guide.

Sat, August 18 2018 7 Elul 5778