The Rabbi Sally J. Priesand WRJ Award was presented to fifth-year HUC-JIR Cincinnati rabbinical student, Samantha Schapera at Graduation ceremonies last week. The award was established in 2018 to honor the 45th anniversary of the ordination of Rabbi Priesand, and is given annually to a graduating woman from the HUC-JIR/Cincinnati campus. Each year, the student is chosen for exemplifying the mission of the Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) and embodying the qualities that Rabbi Priesand has exhibited throughout her career, including her clarity of vision, her commitment to excellence, her professionalism, her dedication to the continuity of Reform Judaism, her passion, and her perseverance.
Samantha grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, and attended the University of Cincinnati, double majoring in Judaic Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Even before graduating in 2013, Samantha knew that HUC-JIR would be the next step in her education. She had already been dreaming about becoming a rabbi for years, and it was after a college internship that she also developed an interest in chaplaincy.
"I found my passion for working with the elderly when I became aware of how little federal support, in terms of research and funding, is directed toward this demographic, and how much work we need to do within the Jewish community. I served as college intern at Cedar Village during my last year of college and found my work in this setting to come naturally." Samantha has already completed two units of Clinical Pastoral Education (chaplain training) and plans to continue her chaplaincy education in the future.
After ordination, Samantha will continue her work at Cedar Village as Rabbi/Chaplain, and will also be serving as Program Director at Northern Hills Synagogue. She is incredibly honored to be chosen for such a prestigious award as she begins her rabbinic career:
"As a woman who has just completed five years of rabbinical school, I am always cognizant of those who have worked so hard to make such an experience possible," Samantha said. "Being honored as having the same qualities as the women upon whose shoulders I stand, especially by the faculty for whom I have immense respect, is a bigger honor than I could express. Thank you to the WRJ, the faculty who nominated me, and to all the women who made my wonderful HUC experience possible."
Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism, shared “WRJ is proud to honor such a deserving recipient who embodies both WRJ’s values and the qualities that Rabbi Priesand has exhibited throughout her career. We look forward to following Samantha’s career in the Reform Jewish Movement and are excited for her future.”