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Rabbi Alysa Mendelson Graf

Rabbi Alysa Mendelson Graf has been inspiring the Port Jewish Center community with her intelligence, dedication, sense of humor and vision since she first arrived in 2015 to lead the congregation. She received Ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 2004.

While at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Mendelson served as rabbinic intern for three years at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan, as summer intern at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton, NY, and as High Holy Day rabbinic intern at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA. She also taught, and served as youth advisor, at her home congregation, Westchester Reform Synagogue in Scarsdale, NY. Rabbi Mendelson wrote her rabbinic thesis on the use of comedic devices in the Bible, with a special focus on the books of Esther and Jonah, and the first six chapters of the Book of Samuel.

Rabbi Mendelson grew up in Scarsdale, NY. She is a 1993 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in European History. In college, she volunteered at the peer-support hotline at the University and at a rape-crisis center in Philadelphia. After college and a year living in Colorado, Rabbi Mendelson attended Fordham University School of Law, where she was a senior editor of the Environmental Law Journal and the chair of the Family Crisis Mediation Clinic. After graduating law school in 1997, Rabbi Mendelson worked as a matrimonial attorney in Manhattan before deciding to pursue her long-time dream of becoming a rabbi.

Prior to coming to PJC, Rabbi Mendelson served Temple Israel in Westport, CT as its Assistant Rabbi, then Associate Rabbi for almost a decade.  While at Temple Israel, Rabbi Mendelson was known for her creativity on and off the bimah. For example, she introduced an innovative Tot Shabbat Program, Boomers & Beyond Shabbats that brought 100s of the congregation’s long time members into the synagogue for Shabbat, Synaplex™ Shabbat programs that educated and engaged all ages, an Annual Purim Ball that raised thousands of dollars for the congregation’s Tzedakah Fund while creating a not-to-be-missed social event, a congregational Sukkot experience that led to dozens of families building a Sukkah in their backyards for the very first time and to many more families enjoying Sukkot home hospitality.

Rabbi Mendelson is a passionate teacher of Torah. She can often be heard insisting that “this week’s” weekly portion is her favorite (whatever week it is). That is because she is convinced, as the Sages have taught, that there is a purpose for each word in our most sacred text.   Rabbi Mendelson is most proud of the special relationships that she has developed with the individuals and families whom she has served as rabbi over the years.  She believes it is an incredible and profound honor to accompany others in their most sacred moments, whether it is welcoming a new child into the covenant, celebrating a young person embracing the Torah as they are first recognized as an adult in the eyes of the Jewish people, standing under the Chuppah with a couple as they commit to one another, or serving as a comforting presence as a family mourns the loss of their beloved.

Throughout her rabbinate, Rabbi Mendelson has been an active member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and of the Women’s Rabbinic Network. She is the co-editor and a contributing writer of the award-winning CCAR publication, The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate (2016 Jewish Book Council Award in Women's Studies). For ten years, she served on the board of the WRN, including as its co-president. She is a 2016-17 fellow with UJA's New York Rabbinic Fellowship for Visionary Leaders and was a STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal) Fellow. She has also completed Clergy Leadership Program with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

Rabbi Mendelson and her husband Adam Graf reside in Port Washington with their three sons. To contact Rabbi Mendelson, e-mail her at: rabbi@portjewishcenter.org

Thu, 19 April 2018