by the Forward

Rabbi Rachel Isaacs

Beth Israel Congregation; Colby College | Waterville, Maine | 31 years old
Conservative | Jewish Theological Seminary

My family moved to a small, rural part of Maine 10 years ago, and we immediately joined the 100-year-old Beth Israel Congregation, but our membership was dwindling. We were aware that soon our beloved doors might no longer be open. Then I received a call: If we acted quickly, we just might get accepted into the Legacy Heritage Rabbinic Fellows program, where a student rabbi would travel from JTS to serve as our spiritual leader following the retirement of our rabbi of 30 years. We were accepted and gratefully matched with Rabbi Rachel Isaacs. Our community quickly came to adore our new leader, and the renewed sense of community and spirituality was inspiring. We had found our new rabbi — and she had found us!

Once the year fellowship was due to end, we came together and found a way to create a contract to present to Rabbi Isaacs. Unfortunately, our funds were not enough for her to live on; however, Colby College and the students had also come to see what an amazing leader and mentor she was. They created a contract, too, and together we have been able to have the profound experience of having a big-time, brilliant, kind, funny, devoted rabbi that any shul in the country would fight over. Our membership is up! Colby Hillel is thriving! We are in the midst of very exciting activity as our rabbi creates the first-ever Center for Jewish Life in a small town. We are incredibly blessed to have her in our community. She is our bright light.

— Tiffany Lopes and 12 others

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