When I Arrived, I had No Place to Stay, for No One at the Jerusalem School would Co-sign a Paper Needed for a Pre-rental Agreement.

Somehow the feeling permeated the halls that I was a rich, bored housewife who would not be up to completing the first-year program. (I was greeted upon my arrival at the school by the Dean’s unforgettable words: “Oh, you’re that crazy woman I’ve heard about.”) My children and I lived in four unsatisfactory places until August, when a real estate agent finally found an apartment for us. Nevertheless, classes had started and I was studying frantically; yet I felt most fortunate to have this opportunity. The credit for my success I give to my adventuresome children, my husband, home alone, working to support my dream, and the teacher of kitah aleph, who was the only one who believed that I could succeed. I completed my first year (I even won an award-The Most Improved Student!), probably spurred on by my classmates, who told me that if I were to fail, the College-Institute would most likely not admit any other “older students” into the rabbinic program. How far we have come in 30 years from that first “second-career” woman!

Helene Ferrisordained in 1981, recently retired as senior rabbi at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester in Croton-on-Hudson, NY.