Rabbi Susan Shankman Elected WHC’s 7th Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Sue Shankman on the bima

Washington Hebrew Congregation (WHC), the oldest synagogue in the nation’s capital, is excited to announce Rabbi Susan N. Shankman has been elected the seventh senior rabbi in the congregation’s 170-year history. As the first female senior rabbi in WHC history, she joins a female leadership team that includes WHC’s executive director and senior cantor.

Following an extensive listening tour, the board of directors heard from Temple membership about their desires for the future direction of the congregation and its rabbinic leadership. On August 25, WHC members voted overwhelmingly to approve Rabbi Shankman’s nomination.

“I feel incredibly blessed, humbled, and honored to be called to lead Washington Hebrew Congregation as its next senior rabbi,” Shankman said. “For 21 years we have shared a sacred partnership, and I look forward to building on our legacy even as we navigate and embrace the changes that will enable us to attain even greater heights.

WHC President Lewis Wiener described the process, “In our conversations with members, clear themes emerged in what the congregation wanted in a senior rabbi: compassion and warmth, how much it means when rabbis take the time to get to know you, and the importance of bringing people together and building community within Washington Hebrew and beyond. These are the traits that describe Rabbi Shankman.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, The Union for Reform Judaism said, “Rabbi Shankman has earned the trust and love of this storied congregation which is why this news is being celebrated. I’m confident that my beloved colleague’s leadership will help steer the course of Reform Judaism in this 21st Century.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, Former U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom said, “Rabbi Shankman is respected for her personal warmth and thoughtfulness even as she is so widely admired for her pastoral, teaching, preaching, programmatic and social justice skills.”

Rabbi Shankman has been part of the WHC clergy team for 21 years. She has distinguished herself as a caring, compassionate, dedicated, and inspiring spiritual leader, a rabbi who is embraced and respected not only at Washington Hebrew Congregation but throughout the Reform movement and the larger Jewish community. This is evident through the numerous leadership positions she has held and honors she has received from the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Jewish Women International (JWI), and elsewhere.

Rabbi Shankman added, “One of my favorite rabbinic texts, Pirke Avot, contains the words of Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradion who wrote, “if two sit and study words of Torah, they draw the Divine Presence to dwell among us.” I have always interpreted this to mean not just the literal study of Torah, but any time we are in relationship with another. The word Torah means “learning” and we learn from interactions and our relationships. I am excited to build on the relationships we have established as we forge a new path into the future!”