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August 30, 2002

Rabbi Lisa Freitag-Keshet Named MHC's Jewish Chaplain


Photo: Fred LeBlanc

Rabbi Lisa Freitag-Keshet

Rabbi Lisa Freitag-Keshet, the leader of Congregation Tikkun v'Or/Ithaca Reform Temple in Ithaca, New York, has been chosen as MHC's new Jewish chaplain. In her new position, Freitag-Keshet will lead Shabbat and holiday services, offer counseling, and develop programming. She will have an office in Eliot House, home of the college's Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

"I am incredibly excited about my work at Mount Holyoke," Freitag-Keshet said. "I have a strong commitment to developing Jewish community and helping people of all ages find spiritual meaning in the Jewish tradition and Jewish culture. I am a supporter of progressive causes and look forward to bringing this aspect to the campus." Says Andrea Ayvazian, dean of religious life, "Rabbi Freitag-Keshet brings to the Jewish community on campus and the College community as a whole a depth of experience, a loving and available heart, and a lively and creative mind that will enhance life at Mount Holyoke in untold ways. We are delighted to welcome her here."

Freitag-Keshet, who was recommended by a search committee representing the College's Jewish faculty, students, and staff, will divide her time between carrying out her duties as chaplain and working with Anita Magovern, the College's Catholic chaplain, to coordinate Mount Holyoke's Community Service Volunteer Program. Freitag-Keshet is "committed to interfaith work and community service, and brings particular strength in pastoral counseling," Ayvazian said. In particular, the new chaplain is looking forward to working with the College's Muslim chaplain, Sister Shamshad Sheikh, and helping further strengthen the ties between the Jewish and Muslim communities on campus.

Freitag-Keshet's commitment to interfaith work is in keeping with the importance of religious pluralism on the Mount Holyoke campus. Recent interfaith efforts include last fall's opening of a kosher/halal dining hall, one of the first in the nation, where observant Muslims and observant Jews can eat together; the 1999 creation of the Abbey Interfaith Sanctuary, which is used regularly by eight faith groups; and the establishment of a popular interfaith luncheon series.

Freitag-Keshet graduated from Temple University in 1989 with a degree in criminal justice, and from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1998 with a master's degree in Hebrew letters and rabbinic ordination. She served as a student rabbi and rabbinic intern with the New Israel Fund before her arrival at Tikkun v'Or, a growing Reform congregation in Ithaca, a diverse community in upstate New York. In her four years at Tikkun v'Or, she led Shabbat and holiday services, taught adult education classes, provided rabbinic counseling, and taught bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah students. Beyond the congregation, she founded a chaplaincy group that works on living-wage issues, served on the local Planned Parenthood board, and helped found the Eleanor Roosevelt Free Loan Society, which provides interest-free loans to refugees in the area of Tompkins County, New York.

About Reconstructionist Judaism

Reconstructionist Judaism, the newest of the four major religious movements on the North American Jewish scene, is a progressive, contemporary approach to Jewish life that integrates a deep respect for traditional Judaism with the insights and ideas of contemporary social, intellectual, and spiritual life. For more information about the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, see http://www.jrf.org/index.html.

The Jewish community barbecue and welcome for Freitag-Keshet will be held Tuesday, September 3, at 5 pm on the Eliot House patio and in the lounge.

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