They also serve: Rabbis’ spouses prove as diverse as roles they fill


Just before the High Holy Days last year, I was sitting in synagogue when I was struck by the star power of its rabbi. When he spoke, everyone listened, transfixed, as if the words he offered were revelations — inspiring, challenging and healing all at the same time.

At the end of his sermon, the congregants erupted in applause. I could hear them whispering about him all at once.

“He’s amazing,” several said.

“Brilliant.”

“I love him!”

That’s when the cantor’s wife, who was sitting next to me, tapped me on the shoulder.

“You know,” she whispered under the din of temple chatter. “I’m waiting for the story about what it’s like to be married to someone in the clergy.”

That’s when I began wondering about the people rabbis go home to at night, the people who don’t just love the rabbi, but who also know the rabbi.

For as long as rabbis have been arguing Talmud, their wives have been at home preparing Shabbat dinner.

Yet that image, along with expectations for clergy spouses, has evolved. For one, they’re no longer all women. They’re no longer always hovering in the background; they’re not even always a different gender from their partner.

Modern rabbis’ spouses don’t fit into any single mold.

” title=”David Light”>David Light balances comedy writing with care of his two daughters; ” title=”Bruce Ellman”>Bruce Ellman brings his psychology training to benefit his temple; Marjorie Pressman served as a fiery force throughout her now-retired husband’s pulpit career; and ” title=”Marjorie Pressman”>Marjorie Pressman put it, “I didn’t marry a rabbi. I married the man I fell in love with.”

And that’s the thread that binds these seven people together.

At the heart of all these stories and all their struggles, are simple, powerful love stories.



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