Rabbi Emily Feigenson '84, MAJE '82, z"l - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Rabbi Emily Feigenson '84, MAJE '82, z"l

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Monday, February 3, 2020

Rabbi Emily FeigensonRabbi Emily Feigenson '84, MAJE '82, died peacefully at home on January 23, 2020, after a courageous 13-month battle with brain cancer. A native Angeleno, Rabbi Feigenson graduated from Birmingham High School and New College in Sarasota, FL, and earned master's degrees from HUC-JIR's Rhea Hirsch School of Education and The Jewish Theological Seminary. She was ordained at HUC-JIR/New York in 1984. Among her professional activities, Rabbi Feigenson served as Rabbi/Educator at Temple Solel, Paradise Valley, AZ; Assistant Rabbi at University Synagogue, Brentwood, CA; Rabbi at Adat Chaverim Synagogue, Los Alamitos, CA; Associate Rabbi at Leo Baeck Temple, Bel Air, CA; and most recently, for 17 years, Chaplain at the Harvard-Westlake School.  

A pioneer in recognizing the specialized needs of Jewish women and girls, Rabbi Feigenson published and lectured on such wide-ranging topics as bat mitzvah as a unique step in achieving Jewish womanhood, rather than simply a female version of the bar mitzvah process, and sexual violence and victimization. She was the editor of Beginning the Journey: A Women's Commentary on Torah. As a teacher and mentor, Emily nurtured the intellectual growth of her students, congregants, and colleagues. Her respect for the intellect was intertwined with her recognition that the deepest human experiences engage not only the mind but also the heart and the spirit. Within every work setting she created meaningful ways to assist others value and develop their human spiritual potential.  

At the Harvard-Westlake School, many of Emily’s efforts were focused on improving the quality of life for students. She connected the dots between adolescent stress, drug use, suicide, and sleep deprivation, and created time and space for students to practice self-care, gain perspective on their lives, and feel heard. 

A committed teacher, Emily cherished the many years she spent on the faculty at URJ Camp Newman and as a congregational educator. She was an active member of ARJE (formerly NATE); her friends remember the combination of wit and wisdom she brought to conventions, deepening the content and eliciting joy and laughter from her colleagues and Rhea Hirsch faculty alike. 

Emily is survived by her husband Dennis Perluss, their three children, Netanya, Talia, and Gabriel, whom she cherished, and her brother Bob. She was predeceased by her sister Sharon and her parents, Dr. Fred Feigenson and Leatrice Feigenson. The family suggests donations to URJ Camp Newman, 711 Grand Ave., Suite 280, San Rafael, CA 94901. 

Portions of this obituary reprinted from the Los Angeles Times, with permission. 

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 leaders to serve 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, museums, 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