Rabbi Rayna Grossman takes over as Lions Gate’s religious director
Rabbi Rayna Grossman, the new director of religious services at Lions Gate, didn’t need a tour to get to know Lions Gate, Dubin, Gesher and Saltzman Houses, the residences that make up Jewish Senior Housing & Healthcare Service (JSHHS), an agency of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey. She also did not need to introduce herself to the residents and staff. That’s because she has spent the past two years building relationships.
“I’ve been here the past two years as a rabbinic intern,” said Grossman, who was ordained this past spring at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, PA. Earlier this summer, Grossman took over from Rabbi Lewis Eron, who retired after 24 years as Lions Gate’s director of religious services and community chaplain.
As Lions Gate’s religious services director, Grossman provides all the ritual services for Shabbat and holidays, does educational programming, and offers pastoral and chaplaincy care for the Jewish Senior Housing community. She said that the Lions Gate position offers her an opportunity to use both her pastoral and her rabbinic pulpit skills. Grossman said that she has spent her initial time as director getting her feet under her and preparing for the upcoming Jewish holidays.
“One of my goals is to help people find meaningful and sustaining connections through ritual, culture and community,” said Grossman, a Buffalo, NY native. “I want to help create a vibrant community and share the excitement I have for Judaism,” she said. Grossman added that the Jewish Senior Housing community is one of diverse religious background and experience. She said that she is there to help each person on his or her Jewish journey.
Grossman did not originally set out to be a rabbi. As she was doing her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Buffalo, she had a powerful and life-altering prayer experience that gave her perspective into the kind of work she could do in the rabbinate. “It had a spirituality component that I had not found in social work up to that point. She finished her Master’s in Social Work, then spent two years working in education and community social work before applying to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She grew up in a Reconstructionist household and is a product of Jewish day school.
Grossman said that her rabbinic internships were with seniors, and that she enjoys what she does tremendously. “It’s a rich area of the rabbinate,” she said, adding that the position allows her to learn things from people who have had an array of experiences.
She’s also still learning from Rabbi Eron, said Grossman, who consults with him regularly. She credited him with crafting the position over the past 24 years. “He knows this community and is still connected to it,” she said.