Temple Sinai names new rabbi

by | Jun 12, 2014 | Other News

The membership of Temple Sinai of Newport News has approved hiring Severine Sokol as its new rabbi. After a congregational meeting April 27, where Sokol was approved unanimously, Congregation president Paul Brindza praised Temple members for their support in bringing in Rabbi Sokol. “For a congregation this size to take such a step is just tremendous,” he said. “We are just thrilled.”

Sokol has been rabbi and cantorial soloist at Congregation B’nai Chaim in Morrison, Col., a Denver suburb, since 2011. During her time there, Sokol led services, organized and conducted life cycle events, supervised religious school operations and taught classes for children and adults. She was active in community outreach, providing pastoral care and organizing a number of arts and cultural programs. Previously Sokol served as rabbi and education director of Congregation Kol Am in St. Louis.

Sokol is a native of France. Her mother emigrated as a teenager to France from Morocco with her family, fleeing a rising tide of anti-Semitism. Her father, as a result of his and his family’s experiences during World War II , had turned away from religion. She says that it was only through a “chance encounter with a welcoming Reform Jewish congregation in England” as a teenager that she realized there was a place in Judaism for her. Her decision to become a rabbi “was a surprise and challenge to my family.”

When Sokol was ordained as a rabbi at Leo Baeck College in London in 2003, she became one of only two French women who successfully sought ordination in England. She was also the first Sephardic French woman to become ordained in Progressive Judaism history.

Sokol served at a number of congregations and Jewish organizations in England before coming to the U.S.

“I believe that a synagogue should be a place where all are welcome. We live in an age where we yearn now more than ever for room to emotionally grow. People seek a home to create and nurture a meaningful spiritual life.” Sokol said in her application.

Sokol is married to writer Neal Sokol and the couple has three children. She assumes her new position July 1, replacing interim rabbi, Rabbi Lawrence Forman.

by Christina Verderosa