TRAVERSE CITY — The intersection of tradition and modernity courses through Arielle Rosenberg's life.
A third-year rabbinical student at Hebrew College near Boston, Rosenberg will serve as Temple Beth-El and Congregation Ahavat Shalom's interim rabbi through May. She visits Traverse City monthly for three days to conduct services and offer adult education programs.
Rosenberg is thrilled with the opportunity. She was hired sight unseen after multiple phone conversations with search committee members. Rosenberg studies in the same six-year program as the outgoing rabbi, Seth Castleman. He's a graduate of the Hebrew College who helped connect the two sides.
"They showed a lot of trust," Rosenberg said. "It's beautiful."
Terry Tarnow, president of Temple Beth-El, said it has proven to be a good gamble.
"We adore her," Tarnow said. "Social action is really up there on her radar."
Rosenberg's job description is more of a cultural or life description, blending political theory with music (she is a trained opera singer who studied opera in Europe), Jewish history, theory and culture with community engagement and pastoral work.
"A lot of the way I understand my role is as a bridge — a translator and a bridge," Rosenberg said. "It's really humbling to come into a new community and feel this sort of welcome and openness."
A native of Portland, Ore., Rosenberg grew up in a small Jewish community and instinctively understands the idea of being a minority in small town life.
"My mom was a cantor and I always grew up watching her involved in services, involved in prayer leading," Rosenberg said.
With a family tradition including two great-grandfathers who founded and served Orthodox temples in the United States, Rosenberg sometimes wonders how they would view her career path. She is a woman in what to them was solely a man's domain until just a generation ago.
"Only in the last 30 years have women been ordained at all," said Rosenberg, who for 10 years was an organizer with indigenous people in Honduras and Seattle. "I'm the first generation to be able to study with female teachers."
During her February visit to Traverse City, Rosenberg will present a program on Jews and the Civil Rights movement. The free talk is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 23, from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. at the Dennos Museum Center.
Rosenberg just finished teaching a 10-week course in Boston on the topic. It relates to the museum's current "THEM: Images of Separation," a traveling exhibition from the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University.
"I'm thinking about what does it mean when multiple communities stand together," she said. "And really to ask questions about what is it that brings us to the streets or to the table together — what is it that's Jewish and what is it that's universal?"