The first time I saw a female rabbi

When I tell people I’m a rabbi, they often comment about my lack of a beard. However, women have been ordained as rabbis since 1972.

I first decided I wanted to be a rabbi when I was 10 years old and a new, young female rabbi began working at my synagogue in Texas. For the first time, I saw someone I could relate to being Jewish all the time. Since I was a child who truly loved being Jewish, my goal to become a rabbi began in earnest.

I am a rabbi because I think Judaism is a religion that is both relevant and beautiful. Judaism inherently and instinctively understands the ebbs and flows of life.

Some examples: When a person dies, we don’t place a headstone or grave marker until at least 11 months after the death, thus giving mourners adequate time to grieve and heal.

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we seek forgiveness for our wrongdoings. However, the liturgy is very clear: God cannot grant us atonement for sins we have committed against fellow human beings. Rather, we must go directly to those individuals we have wronged.

More than anything else, I love that Judaism places such a high premium on being a community that cares for each other and the greater communities of which we are a part and the rest of the world.

— Rabbi Lauren Cohn, Temple Beth El of Anniston

Actually, it was God’s decision

Actually, I didn’t make the decision to become a religious leader at all, but the Most High God made it for me Himself.

Like all men, I was born in sin and shaped in iniquity, and didn’t know that I was called to be a leader. The calling was God’s, but in life I had to choose to accept it, and in 1978 I did (Matthew 22:14).

In terms of being “called to preach,” or “called to pastor,” that can be misleading. Actually, the first call is to “repent and become a disciple,” which is exactly what I did in 1978.

I was discipled, baptized in water, baptized in the Holy Ghost, taught how to study the scriptures and get revelation, served in the church, ministered for three years to inmates at Talladega County Jail, received a vision from the Most High to begin a home Bible study, pastored my first church in 1983-84, and founded Living By Faith Ministry in 1987.

“And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4).

— Bob McClain, Living By Faith Ministry, Oxford