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An Interview with Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, the First Woman to Head Hebrew College

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This past December, the Board of Hebrew College in Newton, Massachusetts elected its first woman president, Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld. Anisfeld will oversee an institution approaching its centennial that confers a wide range of degrees, including rabbinic and cantorial ordination. She will take on the challenge of balancing Hebrew College’s pluralism with the varied opinions and levels of observance within the institution while “shaping an overall renewed vision for the college.” In a recent interview with Tablet, Anisfeld reminisced about the early influences that led her to the rabbinate, addressed the joys and challenges of leading a school of Hebrew College’s scope and reputation and mused about becoming Hebrew College’s first woman president.

Growing up, Anisfeld knew she wanted to be a rabbi. Her parents were active in a large Reform congregation in Rochester, New York, and Anisfeld recalls their deep connection to Judaism. “My mother was born in Haifa and came to Rochester as a young child. She was very drawn to Jewish literature and had a strong personal connection with God. My father was emotionally connected to prayer, and I loved going to services with him. My parents were unusual in that community in terms of the depth of their Jewish connection.”

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