New rabbi’s near-miss career was English teacher

 

Rabbinical school required Rabbi Jenn Mangold to take a class on clinical pastoral education just once. She took it twice.

“It was my favorite part,” she said – not just the class itself, but also the responsibilities that came with it.

Mangold, who graduated in May from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, joined Congregation Shalom July 1 as its new assistant rabbi. She joins Senior Rabbi Noah Chertkoff, Rabbi Emeritus Ronald Shapiro, Rabbi Rachel Kaplan Marks and Cantor Karen Berman at the large Reform congregation.

Mangold, originally from New York City’s northern suburbs, was completing her master’s in education at Teachers College of Columbia University in Manhattan when she realized she wanted to be a rabbi.

“I was teaching Dracula to high school students and I realized I’d rather be teaching Torah,” she said. As she pursued her teaching degree, inching closer to becoming an English teacher, she found herself increasingly involved with her original home synagogue in Rockland County, New York.

“I just fell in love with it. I joined the choir. I joined the social action committee,” she said. “Before I knew it my whole life was Judaism.”

Mangold completed her teaching degree, then attended Reform rabbinical school where she took that clinical pastoral education class twice. The class had her on-call to serve as a chaplain at night, to give the hospital chaplain time off by day. A pager was shared among students. Loud enough to roust a sound sleeper out of bed, it could go off any time between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., if someone in crisis needed a chaplain at The Jewish Hospital ­– Mercy Health in Cincinnati. Class time was for group discussion about the experience; the evening hours, randomly, had her meeting with people in their darkest moments.

“I feel God’s presence in those moments,” she said. “I love being with people during their hardest moments, when they’re sick and they really need holiness.”

Her badge didn’t say “rabbi” or “student,” just “chaplain.” She rarely met with Jewish families. Sometimes, people would ask about her background and she’d say she was a student rabbi.

“At first I wondered … how will I be able to pray with Christians or Muslims?” she said, but she learned through her chaplaincy that her fears were unfounded. “We really have so much in common. You realize that in those moments when someone’s dying, that we’re all human beings.”

Mangold and her husband have moved to Shorewood. Mangold’s service as a student rabbi has taken her to congregations in Fairbanks, Alaska; Jefferson City, Missouri; Worthington, Ohio; Muncie, Indiana; and Columbus, Indiana. Next up, now as a full-fledged rabbi, is Congregation Shalom in Fox Point.

“It seems like a real family here,” she said, adding that she’ll be working with experienced clergy at Shalom. “I’m also really excited to learn from the clergy.”