Who the Folk?! Rabbi Jill Avrin

Welcome to “Who the Folk?!” Every week on Monday we feature a new member of the community as our “Person of the Week.” Last week week we got to know Benjamin Roberts. This week meet Rabbi Jill Avrin! Know someone we should feature? Nominate them by sending an email to [email protected]

TC Jewfolk: Are you from the Twin Cities?

Rabbi: No, I grew up in Milwaukee. I went to college at the University of Minnesota and stayed in the Twin Cities for two additional years before starting rabbinical school at HUC-JIR. I studied in Jerusalem my first year, and then on the New York campus for the next five years. I was ordained in May, 2013, and moved back to Minneapolis to work at Bet Shalom.

TCJ: You’re a Rabbi Educator for Bet Shalom. How is that different from being a pulpit rabbi?

Rabbi: Many people are curious about what a Rabbi Educator is and does. It is an increasingly popular position and looks different in every synagogue. At Bet Shalom it means that my primary responsibilities involve overseeing the religious school, and that is where I focus the majority of my time and energy. I use my training as a rabbi to elevate our religious school, and use my training as an educator as I serve as a rabbinic leader in our community.

TCJ: Is being a Rabbi/Rabbi Educator something you always knew you wanted to do?

Rabbi: Not always. I grew up in an unaffiliated and interfaith family so my primary Jewish experiences as a child were with family and friends. I participated in youth group and camp and by the time I was in high school, I knew I wanted to work professionally in the Jewish world. I considered the idea of becoming a rabbi and wanted to find a way to reach others who were like me. I knew I wanted to work with youth and when I discovered that HUC offered an option to pursue a career in the rabbinate and in Jewish education, I knew immediately that that was what I wanted to do.

TCJ: We’re taking an informal survey. Which of the many Jewish summer camps gets you most ferklempt?

Rabbi: OSRUI! There are so many wonderful Jewish summer camps but my heart is in Oconomowoc.

TCJ: What’s your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?

Rabbi: Having a big Shabbat dinner with family or friends! There are few things more holy than sitting down around the Shabbat table and sharing joys, hardships, and laughter over a home cooked meal.

TCJ: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Rabbi: Passover! I understand Passover as the foundational story of the Jewish people and I am drawn to the themes of the holiday and also to the rituals and practices. I believe the Passover seder is among the most welcoming and inspiring ritual practices in Jewish tradition. I loved celebrating Passover when I was growing up and l know that my love for the holiday is based not only on the collective memory of leaving slavery in pursuit of freedom but also on my own personal memories of celebrating with my family.

TCJ: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Rabbi: Matzah ball soup. I could eat it every day.

Snow removal in Jerusalem

Snow removal in Jerusalem

TCJ: Have you been to Israel? What is your favorite memory?

Rabbi: Many times. During my HUC year in Israel, I was fortunate to experience what happens in Jerusalem when it snows. As a Midwesterner, I obviously have a lot of experience with snow and it was fun to watch others try to figure out what to do.  The HUC campus in Jerusalem is on King David Street and you have to walk up a huge set of stairs in order to enter. As I was walking up the steps, I encountered a few staff members with a water hose and a broom. They decided that the best way to get rid of the snow was to hose it off and then sweep the wet water down the steps. I attempted to explain, in Hebrew, why this probably wasn’t the best form of snow removal.

TCJ: What’s your favorite fall activity?

Rabbi: Fall is my favorite season and I try to spend as much time outside as I can. I love going for walks outside with a hot cup of coffee. I also love watching my Green Bay Packers (sorry tcjewfolk)!

TCJ: What else do you do for fun?

Rabbi: I spend most of my free time with my husband and our two young children, so my idea of “fun” has changed a lot over the last few years.  I love going swimming, to dance class, and the playground.  When I’m having fun by myself, I go running, do yoga, or take a nap.

TCJ: Give us one more reason why you’re folking awesome! 

Rabbi: I have superb parallel parking skills.

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