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Student Spotlight: Meet Second-Year Rabbinical Student Zachary Plesent

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Zach is a second-year rabbinical student. He graduated from Indiana University (B.A. 2014), where he majored in Jewish Studies and Political Science. After college, Zach worked for two years as a full-time educator at Central Synagogue in Manhattan before starting his rabbinical path at HUC-JIR. During his Year-In-Israel, Zach was a recipient of the New Israel Fund's Elissa Froman Israel Social Change Fellowship. This year, Zach served the Jewish community of Laramie, Wyoming during the High Holy Days. 

He writes:

To me, mentorship is the reason that I am here, and really the best example of the kind of rabbi I want to eventually become. More than any other single factor, I am in rabbinical school because of the mentorship I received from my rabbi. He singled me out at a young age, and made it clear to me that this was a career that I should consider, and one at which I would excel. He was and continues to be exceedingly supportive of me on this journey. At the same time, he was also incredibly supportive of my growth as a human being, without repeatedly pushing the rabbinate on me as what I “needed to be doing.” Dr. Erica Brown describes the ideal mentor as similar to a farmer growing, acknowledging that not all seeds will grow to be full-fledged crops, and that the patience to watch them grow is essential. Brown’s description of qualities of an effective mentor/mentee relationship felt remarkably similar to that of my relationship with my mentor. I often tell others, both inside and out of the Jewish Professional world, that my rabbi and mentor is the reason I want to be a rabbi. “I want to be for others what he was for me,” is my oft-used line in these conversations. Now, I don’t mean to imply that my goal as a rabbi is to inspire others to also be rabbis (although that would certainly be a plus) but rather, I would like my rabbinate to be one of mentorship to any who might seek it out, not only for Jewish professional paths. I hope to move and inspire others, and reach my congregants in ways that feel more relational and less hierarchical.

Would you like to speak with Zach and other HUC-JIR students? Let us know! And learn more about our Rabbinical School here.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu