Monday, April 20, 2009

JACTS Director, Rabbi Sara Shendelman

School Director, Rabbi, Cantor Sara Shendelman is one of the best-known Jewish Renewal rabbis in Berkeley, California. She received Cantorial Ordination from Rabbis Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Shlomo Carlebach, the only woman to do so. She received Rabbi S'gan Smicha (rabbinic ordination) from Rabbi Gershon Winkler.

Rabbi Sara Shendelman was a leader in the early days of the Jewish Renewal Movement, from which she was awarded the title of Eshet Hazon (Woman of Vision). Sara has taught, led services, officiated and created ritual for 30 years. She holds an M.A. in Education and Developmental Arts from NYU.

Rabbi Sara Shendelman is the Founder and Director of the Jewish Arts and Culture School (JACTS), established in 1995. At JACTS, students are exposed to different ideologies existing within Judaism so that they can participate and feel comfortable in a variety of Jewish settings. Teachers use art, music, puppets, drama, discussion, dance and text to help students form a loving attachment to Jewish culture, spirituality and history. The curriculum includes Hebrew reading and writing, ritual traditions, Jewish calendar celebrations, Torah and Eastern European stories, Israel, Jewish distinctions, and mitzvot. The student body ranges in age from preschool through post-Bar/Bat Mitzvah and represents a cross-section of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, religious experience and family orientations. Parents and family members are included in the classroom and at celebrations.

Sara's beautiful singing can be heard on 3 music CDs which she has produced, including "I Did Lift You Up" and "Chasing the Gazelle." Sara's musical talents are shared generously in all her endeavors as rabbi, ordained cantor, professional singer, musician, wedding officiant, teacher and ritual leadership.

Sara’s writings have been cited in numerous books about Jewish culture and spirituality. Her published work includes the book: Traditions: The Complete Book of Prayers, Rituals; Blessings for Every Jewish Home (Hyperion).

Sara previously served as Cantor, Rabbi and Core Faculty for Chochmat HaLev, Wisdom of the Heart Center for Jewish Spirituality in Berkeley. Sara performs a lively and interactive service that introduces the Kabbalat Shabbat service and Friday night rituals through prayer, song, storytelling and more. She designed the program especially for those who are new or returning to Judaism, beginners to Shabbat practice, and families with children of all ages.

Rabbi Sara Shendelman officiates at gay, spiritual, interfaith, Jewish and diversely unique weddings. Providing marriage, spiritual, cultural and religious counseling, inspired lifecycle event cantorial services, rabbinic leadership for High Holiday, Shabbat and Festival services, ritual creation for all occasions, Bar and Bat Mitzvah tutoring, conversion assistance, mentoring, advocating and teaching in a compassionate, joyous, literally harmonious and personal atmosphere. For more information, consult her blog at