I first interviewed Rabbi Rose Durbin in 2012, for a book I was writing about religious leaders in the Mohawk Valley. She had only recently assumed the position of Rabbi at Knesseth Israel Synagogue in Gloversville, NY, and was gracious enough to talk to me then about her life, her career, and her family.
She is inspiring to me in the way she puts faith first, then strikes a balance between her personal family and her synagogue family. We talked in May over the phone.
Compass: Can you tell me how long you have acted as rabbi to your congregation?
Rabbi Durbin: Three years.
Compass: When will you be leaving Knesseth Israel?
Rabbi Durbin: Next month.
Compass: Does the synagogue have a replacement for you lined up?
Rabbi Durbin: Not yet.
Compass: Tell me about the process of finding a replacement. Has it gone well?
Rabbi Durbin: As well as expected. They put an ad out and they’ve gotten some applicants.
Compass: Do you take part in reviewing the applicants or is that left up to a committee?
Rabbi Durbin: They’ve asked my opinions and I’ve been happy to give them.
Compass: You are “reform” and your congregation is “conservative” is it not? What does that mean according to Judaic theology?
Rabbi Durbin: Yes, it is. Being reform means we make choices through knowledge. We educate ourselves about our traditions, and we make choices that work with the modern lifestyle, and the conservative movement is not very much different than that. They keep more traditional ways of being Jewish, but they are also very modern and open as well.
Compass: Has your synagogue grown in attendance during your tenure?
Rabbi Durbin: We have gotten a few new families.
Compass: How would you account for that?
Rabbi Durbin: We had some open houses that brought in a new people, and also some families from the area decided they wanted to join our religious school.
Compass: Tell me one of your life’s goals and how you are achieving this.
Rabbi Durbin: I want to raise a healthy and happy family, based on Jewish values.
Compass: Does that relate with what you do with your synagogue?
Rabbi Durbin: Absolutely. I want to help my congregants live meaningful Jewish lives.
Compass: What drew you to becoming a rabbi?
Rabbi Durbin: I went to Jewish summer camp, growing up, a tradition that has meant a great deal to me. And being a rabbi combines so many of my interests like teaching, Judaism, and counseling, and it was a really great career and I wanted to be a leader in the Jewish world.
Compass: Does your career satisfy you?
Rabbi Durbin: Very much. I’m able to teach and inspire my congregants in what it means to be Jewish, and to have a Jewish community and I think that is one of the most important things in life.
Compass: In our interview in 2012 I asked you to name a favorite scripture, and you named Micah 6:8, which states that the three duties of mankind are to “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Can you add any other scripture to this?
Rabbi Durbin: Sure. I have a portion of scripture from the Jewish tradition, Exodus 23:9 this verse is quoted over forty times in the Bible. “You shall not oppress the stranger for you know the feelings of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”