Rabbi C. Ariel Stone, the first American liberal rabbi to accept a full time position leading a congregation in the former Soviet Union began her new assignment on September 1st.
Rabbi Stone was invited to serve Congregation HaTikvah during a visit to Moscow and Kiev last year. She was delighted with the invitation—but didn’t think the congregation could afford her. When the synagogue urged the Reform movement to send a rabbi; she was the perfect match. “An offer I couldn’t refuse,” she says. Her duties will include travelling throughtout the Ukraine, training Jewish professionals and providing Jewish counselling and education to the entire liberal Jewish constituency (estimated to number close to 8,000) in the area. It is estimated that as many as three million Jews still live in the former Soviet Union.
“They’re afraid to practice Judaism now,” Rabbi Stone said, referring to the fact that for 70 years Jewish religious expression was suppressed under Communist regimes. “They want someone to tell them what to do, but I won’t do that. “Instead,” she said, “my goal is to break down their fears, to let them create their own Ukraine Jewishness, and teach them that they have every right to learn, feel and practice. Most of all, I’ll be accessible.”
Rabbi Stone was graduated magna cum laude, with a B.A. in International Studies from Emory University, ordained in 1991 from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, and has spent the last two years as Assistant Rabbi at Temple Israel in Miami, Florida.