2020 Virtual Celebration Journal Journal 2020 Final - Page 14

RABBI CHERIE KOLLER-FOX CANTOR MARISA KRISHEF RABBI ARIEL LESTER R A B B I TA M A R A M I L L E R W W T F hen I shared my dream of becoming a rabbi, my rabbi laughed! “Women can’t be rabbis!” Really? Ok…so I became a Jewish educator. I studied Jewish Studies at Brandeis and Education at Harvard. Jewish education fascinated me—why was it so lacking while Judaism was so amazing! My search for answers led me to found CAJE, now NewCAJE, with dear friends. We gather teachers together year after year, creating a better educated, networked and innovative Jewish education. After 46 years, I now serve as Board President and Executive Director—mentoring a new generation of Jewish educators. While studying, I became principal of Harvard Hillel’s Children’s School. Ironically, this led me to the rabbinate. Under my leadership, the school became Congregation Eitz Chayim and I, privileged to be their rabbi for 25 years. It seemed appropriate to get formal semikhah. I searched for a school that emphasized pluralism and text study. AJR fit me perfectly. My congregation was known for innovation, family education, and individualized instruction, and text study, for adults and kids, was central to its mission. After Cambridge, I had the honor of serving as interim president of AJR. Later, I studied chaplaincy—working in hospitals and nursing homes made me a better rabbi. I married Professor Everett Fox who continues his task of translating the Bible. We have three adult children: Akiva, Leora and Ezra. Akiva and his wife Annie are expecting their first child this Spring. Ours has been a life filled with mission and passion for the Jewish people. 12 AJR 2020 hen I left New York with ordination as Cantor from The Academy for Jewish Religion over 25 years ago, my husband, David, and I were just beginning our careers and family. David, a newly ordained rabbi from The Jewish Theological Seminary, and I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. David took the position of rabbi at Congregation Ahavas Israel. We have lived in Grand Rapids since, where we were recently honored with a weekend of celebrations for 25 years of service to the congregation! For most of those years, I taught Hebrew and Judaism at our Hebrew school and to adults, tutored B’nai Mitzvah students, sang with our local Jewish choir, and on occasion, led services as well. I also worked for many years at one of our local YMCAs as a KidZone Specialist. About 18 months ago, I became the Director of Programming at the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids. I am honored and proud to work for the Federation and have tremendous gratitude to AJR for the excellent education I received in order to be qualified for this position. Mostly, I have been dedicated to the physical, educational, and social/emotional care of our four incredible children, three of whom have special needs. Zachary and Solomon, age 23, survivors of a triplet pregnancy, and Sarah and Harrison, age 20, our twins, have been our greatest challenge and our greatest source of joy. I wish my classmates of the AJR class of 1994 a hearty mazel tov, kol hakavod, and yasher kochachem for many more years of leadership in the Jewish community! he Academy was the beginning of a wonderful (new mid-) life journey for which I will always be grateful. Previous to becoming a rabbi, I taught in various public and private settings in the United States and Micronesia (Peace Corps). In addition, I worked as a psychotherapist at The Country Place in Litchfield, CT, and have had a private practice in Dream Interpretation and Creative Movement therapy from 1975 to the present. With my conversion at age 40, my journey continued and I began rabbinical training in New York City at the Academy for Jewish Religion where I received ordination in 1995. Studying at the Academy was a deep dive into Torah text, Jewish peoplehood and challenging halachic questions and led to my moving to Israel in 1992. I continued my studies at the Pardes Institute where I later taught for ten years. With a vision for Torah learning that would be intellectually challenging, psychologically apt, and spiritually elevating, and with a rather large leap of faith, I founded a Torah Learning Center in Jerusalem called TAL TORAH. Our innovative programs in Torah life cycle education brought hundreds of students of all ages, and across the denominational spectrum, to TAL TORAH over the 22 years its doors were open. Presently, I am working on writing up the TAL TORAH seminars into book form. or thirty years I have been a working rabbi. Ordained by AJR in 1995, I have held rabbinic portfolios in cities around the country from High Point, NC to Seattle, WA; from Auburn, AL to Ft. Belvior, VA to the Metro Washington, DC area where I have lived for the past 22 years. I have initiated numerous positions including Director of Jewish Living and Learning at the District of Columbia, JCC and Director of Spiritual Care at George Washington University Hospital. I was the Founding Rabbi of The Capital Kehillah which was housed at the Sixth & I Historic synagogue. During my multi-denominational career I have modeled pluralism from synagogues and organizations throughout the American Jewish landscape. I now teach at a Reform temple and work as a part-time rabbi in a Conservative synagogue. My private practice in counseling has an interfaith clientele. I was able to bring a unique perspective as a second career rabbi when I was in the first cohort of CLAL’s Rabbis Without Borders. I am also very proud of my work with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where I have been a docent for the past six years. In 2018 my spiritual memoir, You are the Book, was published by Three Gems Publishing. I am blessed with four children and ten grandchildren (and counting!) Retired, I live in Maale Gilboa in Northern Israel where I am building a home on the side of the mountain and enjoying my children and grandchildren on both sides of the ocean. AJR 2020 13