Rabbi Educator Stephanie Kennedy
I have been pursuing Jewish community, connection, and learning for most of my life.
I grew up in Sydney, Australia, in a secular community. My mother is Jewish, and my father is a lapsed Catholic who discovered that his father was a Holocaust survivor later in life. Those two traditions were present and intertwined throughout my childhood. As a family, we celebrated Jewish holidays and Shabbat and also went to church on Christmas and Easter.
While my parents encouraged religious and spiritual exploration, I had limited knowledge of Jewish tradition or involvement in Jewish community. The sense that I didn't know enough or wasn’t involved enough meant that, for a long time, I felt alienated from Jewish life.
Despite this, I was drawn to Judaism. Not sure how to connect or explore spirituality, I pursued my interest in Judaism through academic study. I received my B.A. in religious studies and an M.A. in Jewish studies.
I loved that Judaism and Torah study demanded holistic engagement, asking not just for critical analysis but also spiritual and emotional attention. The study entailed personal reflection about how I wanted to engage with others. In my experience, Torah learning asks me to consider how to relate to the world and provides a model of understanding based on questioning. I love that I do not need to have perfect faith and knowledge, but instead, I am encouraged to investigate for the sake of understanding, being in relationships, and building community.
After many years of pursuing Jewish study, I became more immersed in community and practice, and in 2017 I began studying to be a rabbi. I was ordained in 2022. Before joining Jewish Gateways, I was the Director of Education at Ma’yan Tikvah, a progressive, outdoor, nature-centered congregation in Wayland, Massachusetts.