We are excited to welcome Rachel Glazer to our team as the Assistant Director of Youth Education and Engagement. Rachel’s experience, combined with her enthusiasm for joining the Temple Beth El team, has allowed us to think bigger about how we will engage children and teens.
Rachel joins us after working for over six years at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) in Jackson, Mississippi, most recently as the Assistant Director of Education. In her role at the ISJL, Rachel helped direct a team of educators that support congregational education programs across the South. Rachel coordinated some of the ISJL’s community outreach programs, including a secular literacy program for elementary school students. Rachel also served as the Religious School Administrator at Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson. She received her BS from the University of North Georgia in Psychology and is currently completing a Masters in Jewish Experiential Education from George Washington University.
Rachel’s first order of business at Temple Beth El will be getting to know our teen community to help teens shape their own Jewish lives. Rachel will support teen programming at Temple Beth El, including advising our senior youth group LIBERTY, as well as help connect teens with the multitude of Jewish opportunities across Charlotte and beyond. Rachel will also play a key role in our efforts to build community among all our Temple Beth El children. She will partner with our education committee and parents to facilitate more community building and social opportunities for children and their families.
Rachel’s years at the ISJL, as well as her current graduate studies, will help to enrich the experience of our Religious School staff and students. Rachel will collaborate with Rabbi Nichols to develop new curriculum and support the staff in creating welcoming and engaging learning environments for our children.
- Name: Rachel Glazer
- Job Title : Assistant Director of Youth Education and Engagement
- Birthplace : Dahlonega, Georgia (site of the first Gold Rush, 20 years before California; pronounced Duh-lawn-uh-guh, derived from the Cherokee word for golden/yellow, talonega)
- Tell us about your journey to Charlotte and Temple Beth El. :
Back in the fall, Rabbi Knight reached out to see if anyone in my network of southern Jewish educators might be interested in joining the team to head up the youth group. I didn’t know of anyone available at the time, but the more we talked about it with Rabbi Nichols, the more it became clear that this role was just about as perfect as could be for my next chapter. Plus, my partner, Sam, has family in Charlotte, and after visiting in December, we knew that this was a community we wanted to call home. In short, it was besheret (meant to be)!
- What drew you to working at Temple Beth El?
I first visited TBE when I was a Unit Programmer at URJ Camp Coleman in 2014. Our Chalutzim unit (10th graders) had the opportunity to tour Shalom Park, volunteer with the Freedom School, and add to the Butterfly Garden. I was intrigued by the vibrant and intentional Jewish life of this congregation and made a mental bookmark to find a community like it once I was a “real adult.” Now, I get to do one better—I get to work at the place that has been my mental model for my ideal congregation for the past decade! When I visited in December, everyone was so warm, kind, and smart, but spending time with the teens really sealed the deal for me. I lost count of how many students walked up and introduced themselves to me, unprompted. Their hospitality and comradery really stood out and pointed toward how this community values welcoming newcomers and finding ways to make their talents shine. I’m so excited to get to build programs with such incredible youth, families, and staff!
- What is your favorite part of being a Jewish educator? Why?
Creating meaningful experiences with kids that inform their understanding Judaism and what their Jewish life can look like is at the core of it all. We have the unique opportunity to connect our subject matter to students’ everyday lives in real ways they can explore and customize. I love helping students ask Big Questions, explore their personal practice in nontraditional ways, get out of their heads and into their hearts (prayerfully) and hands (practically), so they can experience Judaism with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might!
- What do you enjoy doing when you are with family and friends?
Every chance we get, I try to find an experience for us to enjoy together, whether it’s exploring a new park, wandering through a street fair, enjoying a delicious meal at a local spot, or moseying through a museum. I never turn down an outing to a thrift store, salvage shop, or yard sale. As my mom says, it’s not about what you find, but the thrill of the hunt!
- What is your favorite hobby?
I am eternally a theatre kid, so any chance to perform improv, direct a play, or lead a workshop, I am there. The most sustainable way I’ve found to keep my thespian heart thriving is through Zumba—I’m a licensed instructor and have loved learning dances from around the world that tell all sorts of stories and provide heart-pumping freedom of expression that gets me out of my head and into the real world for an hour or so!
- What is your most memorable moment?
As young as the fourth grade, my home congregation’s lay leader would invite me onto the bima to help song-lead our tiny group’s Shabbat services. This taught me early on that you don’t have to be a rabbi to have a spiritual impact on your community, and that everyone, no matter how young, has something important to contribute to our collective Jewish experience. Before I ever learned to read Hebrew or write a dvar torah or lead a program, he helped me find my Jewish voice through song.
- If you could have dinner with any person living or deceased, who would it be, and why?
I’d like to host a dinner party with Sheri Lewis and Lambchop, who provided some of the first representations of Jewish life I watched on VHS as a kid; NK Jemison, who crafts brilliant Afro-futurist sci-fi dystopias that beautifully invite the reader to confront the shortcomings of our own reality; Mary Shelley, who led a wild life and would make a fascinating book club member, or at the very least a great trick-or-treating buddy; and my great-grandmother Fannie, who was a spitfire Appalachian healer and farmer with a love for orange cats named Yellowdock.
- What is something about you that TBE congregants might not know?
One of my passions is literacy education—we are a People of the Book, after all! From co-creating and running a spring break literacy day camp to serving on the board of Mississippi’s only books-to-prisoners organization, I am a firm believer in the power of stories to transform us. I can’t wait to write my next chapter with y’all!
- Anything else?
I’ll be at URJ Camp Coleman all summer running the visual arts programming in the Minsky and look forward to getting creative with our youth who will be there! As Ms. Frizzle says, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”