Rabbi Dana Saroken Honored as JWI Woman to Watch

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Rabbi Dana Saroken speaks at the JWI Leadership Conference (Provided)

In recent years, many Jews have cited being spiritual but not necessarily religious.

Two years ago, Rabbi Dana Saroken of Beth El Congregation in Baltimore set out to create a space to make spiritual Jews feel more connected to the synagogue, and thus, the Alvin and Lois Lapidus Center for Healing & Spirituality (aka The Soul Center) was born. As a result, Jewish Women International honored Saroken as one of 10 Women to Watch at its Young Women’s Leadership Conference on Dec. 10.


Saroken, 46, was ordained in 2004 and arrived at Beth El as its first female rabbi in 2007.

She says The Soul Center is an opportunity to create a Judaism that is “connective, accessible and meaningful.”

“We focus on four pillars: mindfulness, healing, rejuvenation and growth,” the rabbi said. “In any given week, you’ll find programs that speak to those four realms. If you are interested in mindfulness, you can come to our meditation sits on Wednesdays or our yoga hikes on Sundays. If you’re interested in healing, we have a caregiver café. It’s for people for whom caregiving for loved ones is a primary part of their lives. There are also healing services that we do.”

Lori Weinstein, CEO of JWI, said Saroken “embodies the new generation of female rabbinic leadership on the bimah and in the synagogue.”

“[Saroken] is rejuvenating synagogue life and inspiring her entire congregation,” Weinstein said. “She is a leader and an innovator —creating The Soul Center at Beth El and providing a religious and spiritual home for the entire community.”

With all of the center’s programming, Saroken says they always try to maintain a “Jewish twist.”

“We have extraordinary teachers and professors who work with The Soul Center, so whatever we’re doing, there’s a constant quality control,” she added. “Everything feels rich with Jewish content.”

Through her work with The Soul Center, Saroken has been a chance to look at the big picture and the deeper world issues that permeate Judaism.

“If you can provide high- quality programs, with authentic people in a beautiful space and a culture of acceptance and belonging, people don’t want to leave,” she said. “When we’re finished with a program, people will typically ask, ‘Do we have to go?’ That’s what The Soul Center is about. It’s about creating a place for people to connect, to grow and to feel inspired.”

abelt@midatlanticmedia.com

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