Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The Role of Adina Abramowitz, z”l, in Reconstructing Judaism

The role of Adina Abramowitz, z”l, in Reconstructing Judaism  - by Ruth Loew

On December 13, the Germantown Jewish Centre community was stunned and saddened by the unexpected death of Adina Abramowitz z”l.  Adina and her wife, Naomi Klayman, were longtime members of Dorshei Derekh, the Reconstructionist minyan within GJC.  In the minyan, Adina and Naomi often led Shabbat morning services.  Sometimes Adina presented a teaching (d’var Torah) on that week’s Torah reading and led the discussion that followed.  She coordinated Dorshei Derekh’s High Holiday services for several years and took turns as the coordinator for leading services or presenting divrei Torah.  Many who had worked, learned, and worshiped with her, in GJC and in the larger world, valued her for her deep knowledge of Judaism; her talents for organizing (whether a meeting, a project, or a budget) and for teaching; and her honesty, generosity, humility, and dependability.  She had a rare gift for clarifying issues that others found hopelessly confusing.  Her sense of humor was also appreciated: Rabbi Micah Weiss, the Reconstructing Judaism staff Tikkun Olam Specialist, valued Adina’s “ability to lovingly roll her eyes.” 

Her entire career, both professional and volunteer, was driven by her values: she was dedicated to creating a better life for those who were disadvantaged.  Professionally, she worked with CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions), which offer financial resources to underdeveloped communities. In her private life, among the many organizations that benefited from her time and talents was the Reconstructionist movement. Most of her work with it was related to one of three projects: the Prayerbook Commission of the 1990’s, the Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) Commission, and change management support for the Board of Governors.

The Prayerbook Commission created guides to Reconstructionist worship, including a siddur (prayerbook) for Shabbat and holidays; a mahzor (prayerbook for the High Holy Days); a weekday prayerbook; and one for houses of mourning.  Her excellent command of Hebrew and of Jewish liturgy were great assets.  Also importantly, she presented a perspective from the LGBTQ community.  Rabbi David Teutsch, who worked with her on this venture, describes her as “judicious, thoughtful, and capable of working with grace and good will.”

Adina was more recently active in the movement’s Tikkun Olam Commission, which addresses social justice issues. She was passionate about its work, particularly its commitment to racial justice, including reparations. She and Naomi were among the first to sign up for Reconstructing Judaism’s civil rights pilgrimage last spring. She was first a commission member, then became the transitional lay co-chair of the commission. When the new chair was on-boarded and ready to take on leadership, Adina, with characteristic humility, intended to step back into her role as a member.

As part of the Tikkun Olam Commission, she led a qualitative research project on racial justice work in member congregations. What initiatives had the congregations tried? What were they accomplishing? What feedback were they hearing from members of color? This project concluded with recommendations for congregational action. Adina helped make racial justice a primary role of the Commission.

A third area in which Adina took a leading role in Reconstructing Judaism was change management: helping the movement assess its organizational and financial future, particularly in the wake of Covid and, more recently, of October 7, 2023 and its aftermath.  She served as a pro bono consultant to the Reconstructing Judaism Board and movement leadership in evaluating what products and services Reconstructing Judaism offers and how it does its work. That meant working closely with its president, Rabbi Deborah Waxman; its executive vice president, Rabbi Amber Powers; and the senior leadership team. She offered individual coaching and led a pivotal discussion at their retreat this past fall.  She quickly became a trusted advisor, confidante, and coach to many with whom she worked. As Rabbi Deborah Waxman said, “All of this was in a volunteer capacity and all with generosity, creativity and effectiveness.”

Adina quietly went about being helpful whenever she could, without calling attention to herself. She didn’t care whether she was praised for her work; she just cared that the work was done and done well.  As Rabbi Teutsch said, “I never asked for help with anything that she didn’t say yes.” 

Zichronah liv’rachah – זיכרונה לברכה - May her memory be for a blessing.

Thank you to those who agreed to be interviewed for this article: Mark Pinsky, Rabbi David Teutsch, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, and Rabbi Micah Weiss.


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