Friday, March 8, 2013

The Having It All Project: Rabbi Eleanor Steinman

Yes, it's time to profile another Rabbi - you do know I went to Brandeis, right? I think rabbi is the most common profession in my Facebook feed, followed by teachers I went to high school with. Anyway, Eleanor, who will forever be Ellie to me, became a dear friend when we took a class on the 1960's, spent too much time in the Hillel lounge, and made each other mix tapes. Here's how Ellie is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am a Reform Rabbi and I currently serve as Executive Director of California Faith for Equality, an organization that works to educate, mobilize and support California’s faith communities to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and support religious freedom. I have wanted to be a rabbi since I was fifteen or sixteen. Sometimes I still pinch myself that I am doing what I dreamed of doing long ago. My partner, Denise, is also a rabbi. She serves a congregation in West Hollywood. Living in a two-rabbi family can make for a particularly busy schedule though I don’t know that makes us any different than any other family.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
Chaos is ever-present. When things are at their worst, I find technology to be particularly useful. I have iOS devices and I love the reminders app, calendar in time for things that are not traditionally found in a calendar (at least they didn’t appear in mine). I write grocery and errand lists also because sometimes time is far too precious to forget the eggs at the grocery store. I am a firm believer in the importance of date night. Though it is not always formally scheduled on the calendar, when we know our schedules are going to be crazy (fortunately we can sometimes predict it) we are sure to calendar those date nights.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
The High Holy Days are always a busy time. This year, though I am working full-time in a not-for-profit and not at a congregation, I had every intention of being a “Jew in the pew.” Surprisingly, I got a last-minute call from a group in Honolulu, Hawaii, who wanted a rabbi to lead their Yom Kippur services days before the holy day. It involved a lot of juggling but somehow I made it to Hawaii for Yom Kippur, had sermons, music and liturgies prepared and managed to set my away message on my email at California Faith for Equality. I was in Hawaii for 48-hours or so, 26 of which were spent in prayer and reflection, and managed to dip my toes in the ocean once! It was a great adventure.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I can’t say that I have one role model. I feel like I learn a lot from lots of different people. That’s sort of how I live my life. I think everyone and every experience has something to teach though the lessons might be difficult to discern.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
I knew I wanted to be a rabbi so that is no surprise to me. I was nowhere near ready to come out to myself or anyone else, so that is something that I was not prepared to envision. I am proud of the person I am and am becoming every day, and am grateful to those people who have been and continue to be my friends, family and fans along the way!

Relate to what Eleanor is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at!

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