Breaking Barriers: A Rabbi’s Journey
Posted on Jun 24, 2021
Meet Rabbi Rachel Salston, who serves at Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation B’nai Israel in New Jersey. Rabbi Salston earned a BA degree at Brandeis University with a major in neuroscience and a minor in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. She then attended Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, earning her rabbinic ordination. Returning to the east coast, she worked as the ritual director at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York, before becoming a chaplain at the Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ. Rabbi Salston also served as a part-time rabbi for the East Brunswick Jewish Center in NJ, where she attended services in her youth.
Female rabbis are on the rise in the Conservative movement, and Rabbi Salston has taken this one step higher. From her biography, one can see that she takes learning and growing seriously, and with the utmost intention. She is among the upcoming minority of women to have the privilege of becoming a soferet stam. How did all this come about, you wonder?
It was beshert!
Rabbi Salston was a crafty youngster growing up in a non-egalitarian synagogue. Watching the men wrap tefillin piqued her interest, desire and curiosity as to why she was not an equal partner in this sacred tradition. Being motivated and resourceful, she began researching the implications of being a female Jew in an egalitarian synagogue. This is where she meets her fork in the road. Her research takes her to a woman named Jen Taylor Friedman. She is the first woman in modern times to scribe the Sefer (scroll of the) Torah. At this time, Rabbi Salston was attending Yeshivat Hadar in NY, and had been wearing tefillin for two years. Ms. Friedman taught a weekly course in the yeshiva’s community Beit Midrash on maintaining Sifrei Torah and basic repairs. The opportunity arose for Rabbi Salston to meet her hero and learn from her. Beshert!
Rabbi Salston had to learn English and Hebrew calligraphy, and to practice first in pencil and marker — not a simple task. The next step was using metal dip pens and cutting a quill from a feather. This is where the precision of using her hands in the lab in neuroscience studies intersected with the skill of doing calligraphy with a quill pen. The summer apprenticeship proved to be of great value not only in learning skills and acquiring knowledge, but also in terms of income to help pay for her rabbinical courses. Torah Fund, of course, was also a great source of help for Rabbi Salston, and she very much appreciates the hard work that Women’s League and Torah Fund do to help students fulfill their dreams at the five Conservative/Masorti institutes of higher education.
Rabbi Salston transitioned from Torah repair to tefillin repair while living in New York City. Please visit stamscribes.com to learn more (and possibly use her services to repair your tefillin or Torah). StamScribes is venturing out to share their repair services, education, and other commissions at the USCJ and URJ conventions. Our seminaries are preparing Conservative Jewish women to break glass ceilings and make a beautiful difference in the world to come.Back to Chadashot