While she grew to have a fascination with the legal field, the idea of attending rabbinical school seemed to live permanently in the back of Cecelia Beyer's mind. Involved with Jewish groups her whole life long—Young Judaea, supplementary Hebrew high school, and Hillel in college—Cecelia weighed either a career in the rabbinate or one as a lawyer.
Opting for law school at George Washington University, Cecelia continued her involvement in Jewish organizations, serving as a Jewish Law Students Association president, teaching in Hebrew school, and working on the ritual committee at her local synagogue. "Yet," according to Cecelia, "All the while, I wondered: 'What if I'd gone to rabbinical school?'"
Her epiphany came [get ready!] at her husband's father's second cousin's stepson's bar mitzvah. Cecelia says, "I began crying because I felt so proud of this kid whom I had never met. I wanted to be the one to connect to that child and the congregation from the bimah. That was, for me, the turning point."
After staying the weekend and seeing the academic and Shabbat communities during the first "Taste of JTS" open house for prospective students, Cecelia realized that The Rabbinical School of The Jewish Theological Seminary was the real deal—and her destiny. "My visit to JTS and the warm welcome I got from the students, as well as the great time I had engaging in the classes I visited, made me realize that JTS was the right place for my rabbinic education, especially with its balance of community, academics, and opportunities for spiritual growth," she reveals.
Ordained in May 2010 with a concentration in sacred music, Cecelia looks back on her time at JTS with much fondness. "If you want to immerse yourself in the intellectual and spiritual sides of Judaism, you could not pick a better place to study," she says. "Everyone here has been invested in my growth as a rabbi, as a Jew, and as a person—I am truly grateful to JTS."
In July, Cecelia began her new role as the assistant rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights, New York. Though she has just started in the position, her goals are as ambitious as they are altruistic. As Cecelia describes, "I want to serve a community in a way that creates positive Jewish communal moments, while also encouraging and challenging each individual member of that community to reach his or her personal best—I want to inspire people."
There is little doubt that Cecelia will succeed in all that she sets out to accomplish.
Cecelia Beyer discusses the sense of community at JTS: