First Hebrew's mission is to enrich our vibrant egalitarian Jewish Community though education, worship, charity and social interaction, and to support each person in their pursuit of Jewish learning, values and spirituality.
First Hebrew Congregation is
For the first time in its nearly 120 year history, First Hebrew Congregation has a woman Rabbi.
An animal lover who rides and keeps a horse, "Rabbi Dana" has differentiated herself in the congregations she has served with her openness and accessibility to the entire congregation.
At First Hebrew, she has been particularly appreciative of the work of the committee volunteers.
"I'm so excited that I will be working with such dedicated and hard working volunteers.
This synagogue has a tradition of social action and compassion which extends well beyond the Jewish community".
Rabbi Dana is passionate about pastoral care and is compelled to be "present and available" to people and families in need.In Connecticut Rabbi Dana is the first and only person to establish a "Death Café" ( http://deathcafe.com ), a discussion group where people can openly talk about death with the aim of making the most of their finite lives.She has also set herself apart with her sense of fun and her "wicked sense of humor".
First Hebrew has a wonderful and strong core membership and once unaffiliated Jews in our area meet Rabbi Dana, I believe they will want to connect with her and with our vibrant Jewish community".
"Whether you are just thinking about it or having to confront a life-threatening situation, the prospect of death can be confusing and often frightening," said Dana Z. Bogatz, who will be leading the area's first in a series of the Death Café on November 10, at 7:30 p.m.
The Death Café gives people a safe haven to talk about death, hopefully before they have to face any end-of-life situation," she explained.
"It provides a much-needed conversation."
Bogatz had facilitated over Death Café in Connecticut for several years before recently moving to Northern Westchester to become the Rabbi at First Hebrew Congregation.Her years as a Rabbi and hospital chaplain inspired her to find a way to help people through this difficult time.
She eventually discovered Death Café, a social franchise launched in the U.K. in 2011.
Although she is a Rabbi, no Death Café has a religious slant.
"Death Cafe brings together people from all walks of life to have what can be considered an intimate conversation about dying," said Bogatz, who is proud of the community outreach sponsored by First Hebrew, enabling her to host Death Café.
"My being a woman, by the fact of my gender, screams change," says Rabbi Bogatz.
Courtesy of First Hebrew Congregation
Rabbi Dana Z. Bogatz is happy to talk about her journey to the rabbinate, her warm welcome as the new rabbi at First Hebrew Congregation in Peekskill and her ambitions for the community.
Instead, what impressed Newman and the search committee was Rabbi Bogatz's "outside-the-box approach way to connect."
Still, both Newman and Rabbi Bogatz acknowledge that having a woman in the pulpit sends a projects a powerful optic.
"My being a woman, by the fact of my gender, screams change," said Rabbi Bogatz.
"We have a female cantor, so this says we're different."
Rabbi Bogatz, who had previously served as the rabbi at Congregation Sinai in Milford, Conn., as well as Temple Beth Sholom in Stratford, Conn., and as assistant rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Fairfield, Conn., recognizes that the Jewish world has been "turned on its head.
We are all Jews by choice."
With synagogue affiliation no longer a foregone conclusion for the non-Orthodox, the rabbi is eager to do whatever she can to entice people to First Hebrew.
"We want to be more flexible and allow more kinds of people to feel comfortable here," she said.
"There are people who don't necessarily want a religious experience, but are interested in intellectual, social and social-action involvement."
One of Rabbi Bogatz's initiatives, which is already under way in the few weeks since she's arrived in Peekskill, is meeting people, especially the non-affiliated, outside the synagogue building, at neutral places like the Hudson Valley Community Center of the Arts.
Raised in Meriden, Conn., where her family always had Shabbat dinner and went to services Friday night, Bogatz went to the University of Connecticut to study agriculture, specifically agricultural economics and rural sociology (she is still a dedicated equestrian who takes to the trails whenever possible, and she and her husband have two dogs).
At college, Bogatz needed extra credits, so took Hebrew, which led to other Judaic courses.
Although she started her working life in agribusiness (including a stint as a wholesale florist), Bogatz's involvement with a chavurah, "renewed the idea of Judaism as a practice" for her, and in turn led to a chavurah summer institute.
Initially focused on becoming a community organizer in the Jewish community, Bogatz ultimately was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
She's thrilled that First Hebrew Congregation offers professional support in the synagogue, personal support in the community and "a tremendous volunteer corps."
First Hebrew Congregation in Peekskill, Rabbi Dana Z. Bogatz, Women rabbis
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