Rabbi Keren Gorban will soon leave Temple Sinai after serving for seven years as the Reform congregation’s associate rabbi.
Before serving the Squirrel Hill synagogue, Gorban was the assistant rabbi at Temple Sinai in Denver and spent time as a student rabbi in Montana, British Columbia and Arizona. She also was a teaching assistant at the University of Southern California and worked as a chaplain in nursing homes in California and at a hospital in Denver.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Can you talk about what your responsibilities were while serving at Temple Sinai?
My responsibilities have ebbed and flowed. There have been parts of my portfolio that I have spent more time with and others when it’s been less.
Right now, I am in charge of the religious school program Next DOR (the congregation’s center for Jewish learning). I am the associate rabbi, so I have full pulpit and life cycle responsibilities, counseling and so on. I am also responsible for all of the music for the congregation and anything with youth that sort of falls under Next DOR but not entirely. And I have mostly been the tech director.
Are there any parts of your role you enjoy more than other parts? What will your focus be moving forward?
The general rabbinic role is where my passions lie. Part of what I was looking for in a new position is to really be able to enjoy the role of being on the bima and leading services, of getting to be involved in all of the different life cycle events. One of the things I’ve done a lot of here is conversions. I really enjoy Intro to Judaism and working with conversion candidates and teaching, but not so much on the administrative piece.
Since your contract has expired at Temple Sinai, what’s next for you and your family?
I’m going to be the rabbi of Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington.
Was there anything about Pittsburgh that you particularly enjoyed?
I love Pittsburgh. I’ve loved the neighborhood feel. I like that fact that there are so many neighborhoods and that people actually know the people in their neighborhood. I love being able to walk down Murray and Forbes avenues and bump into people that I know.
What about Temple Sinai? What are you going to miss about the work you’ve done there?
I think it’s two things. One is the people because that is really what is most important. Also, Tacoma is a relatively mid-sized city but has a small Jewish population. Beth El is the only congregation, other than Chabad, in town. So, having the range of Jewish life and colleagues in town is something that I am going to miss.
What have you most enjoyed about your time at Temple Sinai?
Getting to know the people in the congregation and accompanying them on part of their journey, especially through the particularly difficult and particularly joyful times.
Are there any lessons you’ve learned at Temple Sinai that you’ll be taking with you to Tacoma?
Yes. I have grown significantly as a rabbi, a leader and a professional. I’ve been a rabbi for 10 years, and this is only my second full-time congregational position. I’ve learned a huge amount about what it means to be a rabbi I’ll be taking all of that with me.
Are there any last words that you want to leave for the Pittsburgh community?
When I led the first Pittsburgh Honeymoon Israel trip, one of the things I kept reminding the couples on the trip was that they were individuals as well as couples, and that if they wanted to sometimes separate and go do different things they should and should feel comfortable about that.
I think one of the things that we have seen in the Jewish community is that there is a strong push to do things together in ways that are intended to combine or erase the individuality of each congregation or community. My hope for Pittsburgh is that the Pittsburgh Jewish community takes the stuff about working together, collaboration and community, while also allowing each place to retain its unique identity.
Gorban will leave in the middle of June to begin her new position with Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington. PJC
David Rullo can be reached at email@example.com.