Rabbi Hazzan Rachel wandered into a Friday night service at Adat Shalom in the winter of 1990 and fell in love with the teaching, the prayers, the community . . . she even met her husband. Over her more than 25 years of evolving leadership, Rachel has been inspired by both the community and by Jewish tradition to find new ways of connecting our ancient texts and ideas with our modern spiritual needs.
Rachel’s leadership has been instrumental in building a strong singing and davenning (praying) culture at Adat Shalom. A classically trained soprano, she is equally at home with all different kinds of musical settings in a variety of languages including Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish and Yiddish. Her definition of musical success in prayer is the sound of a whole community of many voices joining together as one.
An enthusiastic student of Jewish text, thought and practice, Rachel has played a central role in guiding and supporting Adat Shalom’s many learning opportunities, especially Yesodot HaLimud – Foundations of Learning, an 18-month Jewish study program she developed in collaboration with talented lay-leaders, which has now graduated more than 70 members of the community.
Her background and training in social work and passion for pastoral care have provided invaluable tools to strengthen Adat Shalom’s commitment to compassionate pastoral outreach. A devoted student, practitioner and certified teacher of hatha yoga, Rachel spear-headed Makom@Adat Shalom, our community’s expanding program of contemplative Jewish practice offerings, nurturing these essential tools for healing souls and for healing the world.
Rachel’s academic and professional training includes Bachelor of Arts in Music and Master of Social Work degrees, both from the University of Maryland and a Master of Judaic Studies degree from Baltimore Hebrew University as well as years of private cantorial training. In 2002, she was invested as hazzan by the Cantors Assembly, the cantorial arm of the Conservative movement. She began a regular yoga practice in 2002 and completed her basic hatha yoga teacher training in 2015 under the auspices of the Casey Health Institute and under the direction of its master Iyengar teachers. In 2017, after six years of formal study, she graduated from the seminary program of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal and was ordained as a rabbi. She completed a first unit of clinical pastoral education at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC. Rachel currently serves on the executive council of the Washington Board of Rabbis.
Rachel and her husband Jonathan Epstein live in Bethesda and are the proud parents of three young adult sons, Gabriel, Gideon and Koby and a beagle-basset, Percy Jackson. She has finally accepted the reality that the laundry will never be fully done and tries to enjoy moments of true contentment anyway.
Click here to reach Sarah Wesson, our clergy assistant to schedule time to connect with Rabbi Hazzan Rachel.