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Statement from Rabbi Donna Cephas

Being Jewish has been part of the fabric of Rabbi Donna’s identity and life from her earliest memories. She grew up in a largely Jewish world in Brooklyn.  Her grandfather, who led the family to emigrate from Ukraine, was a kosher butcher.  His home with her grandmother was the hub of their family’s life. Her path to the rabbinate began with a desire to become literate in Judaism in order to translate Jewish texts and form her own opinions about possible meanings, lessons and context.  Rabbi Donna had questions about the evolution of Judaism as a religious civilization and how we came to the Rabbinic Judaism of our time and place.  In 2021, she was ordained from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.


While studying for her Master’s in Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Donna experienced formative learning in religious identity formation and the discipline of Personal Narrative. She became skilled at using Personal Narrative to enable people to understand their own aspirations, their place in the chain of Jewish tradition, and the lives and faith of people from other religious traditions.  She experienced how the sharing of personal narrative results in developing new and deepening existing relationships within and between communities, and she developed a strong desire to help form Jewish communities with a love of learning and a desire to participate in social justice initiatives and be in relationship with other religious communities. Rabbi Donna is excited to bring the expansive possibilities of Personal Narrative to text study and relationship building in the String of Pearls community.


This desire to learn and engage with Judaism in the presence of those from other traditions led her, in 2013, to become the Founding President of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom (SOSS), and, in 2019, co-found and co-direct the Voices of Jerusalem Narrative Project.


SOSS is the first international network of Muslim and Jewish women fostering interfaith relationships, interfaith learning, leadership development and social justice initiatives. In the course of her tenure as President of the SOSS, the organization grew with Chapters across 31 states in the US, Canada and Germany.  Her deep interest in and involvement with interfaith connections led her, in 2019, to co-found and co-direct The Voices of Jerusalem Narrative Project, where the voices of Jewish, Muslim and Christian women are shared in a film and written portraits in conversation together with Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities.


Rabbi Donna is excited to join the String of Pearls community and continue to deepen the ethos where all are encouraged to study and learn together in a space of love and respect that upholds Jewish values and encourages interfaith understanding. It is her hope that she and the Congregation will reach new heights of Jewish togetherness and profound understanding with people of other faiths.

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