A Founder’s Now the Rabbi


One of the founding members of Kol Tzedek in West Philadelphia can add another superlative to her list of personal accomplishments: head rabbi.

The young synagogue's young rabbi, Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, helped found the shul in 2004, while still a student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote.

"When we started the synagogue I introduced myself as a rabbinical student, but I was very clear up front that as part of founding it, I was intending to be the rabbi," she said. As such, the shul celebrated her 2006 graduation from RRC, which served as a transition of sorts.

"My role didn't change necessarily — I just had more responsibilities, and my job was larger because I was no longer a student," said the 31-year-old.

The Cherry Hill, N.J. native said that she always felt a pull towards the bimah.

"I was in high school, and I had a flash in my mind that said, 'I think I want to be a rabbi.' I kind of listened to it, but I didn't really think about it that much, but it was always there in the background, and it stayed with me from that moment."

After studying political science and women's studies at Rutgers — "two subjects that have nothing to do with Judaism" — she lived in Boston, working in a program doing Jewish community organizing, and later spending time in Israel. She said it was during this period that she realized what she was really moving towards and decided to enter rabbinic school.

One of her goals for the shul is to "be a community in which people can explore Judaism openly and personally, and find new ways of expressing themselves in the community."

She said that she hopes to expand the shul's reach beyond West Philly but, even more than that, to continue to work for social justice in the community.

That's fitting — kol tzedek, she said, is Hebrew for "voice of justice."



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