Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, Jewish Chaplain at Colby College and spiritual leader of Waterville's Beth Israel Congregation, will speak at the University of Maine at Presque Isle during the 4th annual Gay Awareness Days. Her address will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, in the Campus Center.
In May 2011 she became the first openly gay rabbi of either sex to be ordained by the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary. During the Oct. 2 event, Rabbi Isaacs will speak about "A Faith-Based Approach to Marriage Equality" and will bring her personal story to the topic.
Rabbi Isaacs grew up in New Jersey and attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts. After graduation, she studied in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and then began rabbinical school as a Wexner Graduate Fellow. The Wexner Foundation provides young North American Jewish leaders with an intensive Jewish learning program, deepening their understanding of Jewish history, values, and texts, and enriching their leadership skills. In addition to her duties as Jewish Chaplain at Colby, Rabbi Isaacs teaches Hebrew and Jewish theology on campus.
Being the first openly lesbian rabbi ordained by Conservative Jews is "really an honor," Isaacs said.
Modern Jews usually identify with one of the various movements: Orthodox (practicing the most "fundamentalist" Judaism) Reform (a progressive movement), Conservative Judaism, which falls between the Orthodox and Reform, and Reconstructionist, a small liberal movement found primarily in the U.S. All but Orthodox Jews ordain women as rabbis; the Reform and Conservative branches also ordain gay clergy.