July 29, 2007
Rabbi Carole Meyers, first female to head a congregation in Southern California, dies at 50
Ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in 1983, Myers was appointed the first female rabbi to lead a congregation in Southern California three years later at the age of 29. She retired in 2001 to be a full-time mother to her two children.
"I came to understand that for me, congregational life, which I love and have cherished for these 18 years, is incompatible with raising children and having a reasonable home life," she told The Journal in June 2001.
She continued to serve on the board of the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis, developing curricula for HUC-JIR, and presiding at marriages and bar and bat mitzvahs.
"Here she will be missed greatly," said Rabbi Rick Schechter, the third spiritual leader of Temple Sinai since Meyers. "She was a brilliant woman and gave so much to the community."
During Meyers tenure, the membership of the synagogue doubled to 300 member families.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena), who has been a Temple Sinai member for more than a decade, described the rabbi as "warm, affectionate and down-to-earth," and said her sermons "packed the synagogue." In November 2001, he invited her to deliver a prayer at his inauguration.
"It was so uplifting and life-affirming," he said of the post-Sept. 11 prayer about all the places you could see the existence of God. "She was trying to console a nation," he said. "I know members of our community are asking now, 'How does any of this make sense? How can it be?'" Schiff said, and suggested Meyers own words then could respond:
"Eternal God, be with us as we move through this time of uncertainty," Meyers had said. "Help us know that we can lend Your presence and use our lives to reflect it. Then we will have the faith to bring light and joy, peace and comfort, justice and goodness to this magnificent world God has created. Amen."Rabbi Meyers is survived by husband, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ralph Zarefsky; and sons Joe, 14, and Gus, 10.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles.
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor