Rabbi Ilana Goldhaber-Gordon
Ilana is a PhD biochemist and a Talmud scholar. She is a community-builder, a teacher, and an empathic listener.
The Talmud itself acknowledges that Torah can be either "a potion of life" or "a potion of death" (see Ta'anit 7a). Ilana is determined to use the full force of Torah -- for beauty and goodness alone. She engages deeply with tradition, using creativity sharpened by knowledge to draw the past into our lives today.
Ilana is currently serving as Visiting Rabbi at Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto. She is a very recent graduate of the Academy for Jewish Religion, CA, a trans-denominational school with a hasidic bent. During 2010-11 she was on leave to study and teach at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
She holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Harvard University and a PhD in biochemistry from MIT. At some level, Ilana will always be a scientist -- she still gets excited when she reads the details of a protein's function, and should she ever forget the ways of thinking of the sciences her husband David, a professor of physics at Stanford University, will be sure to remind her. But at a more intimate level Ilana has always been a rabbi, from even before she was a scientist. She has been studying and teaching Jewish texts at a high level her entire adult life. Many are the people who have turned to her in their times of personal turmoil, as a source of wisdom and compassion. And from the time she and David moved to California nine years ago, their home has been a center for community: in the forms of mother-child playgroups, Shabbat meals, and formal and informal prayer groups.
Coming from a modern Orthodox background, Ilana is a graduate of Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago and Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem. For her bat-mitzvah, Ilana and her father studied hundreds of hours together to complete a volume of the Talmud (masechet Makot) -- an area of study considered by many in her childhood community to be off-limits to females. Her bat-mitzvah was the formative experience that a bat-mitzvah should be, teaching her to love tradition but also to work with it, to keep it potent today.
Ilana and David are parents of two beloved children, aged ten and seven. Ilana sees motherhood as a constant striving for resonance -- like trying to push a swing at exactly the right moment when it begins its descent. In the process, she has learned to see the world through each of her children's eyes. That ongoing experience profoundly strengthens her as a rabbi.
Ilana has been teaching Torah in formal settings since 2006. She has taught extended courses at Stanford Hillel, Congregation Kol Emeth, Peninsula Havura High, and to groups of adult learners meeting in participants' living rooms. She has also taught the last three years at the BJE's Feast of Jewish Learning, and at the first Limmud conference of the Bay Area. She enjoys writing, and publishes regularly in national Jewish magazines. You can read many of her articles here. During her recent year at the Conservative Yeshiva she kept a blog to share some of the Torah she learned.
Ilana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org