Rabbi Judy Schindler. Credit: Temple Beth El

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In July 2016, Rabbi Judy Schindler, will leave her post at Temple Beth-El, 5101 Providence Rd., to focus on academic pursuits and social justice, The Charlotte Observer reported on Jan. 20. She will remain at Temple Beth El during the 18-month transition while the congregation installs a new senior rabbi.

The first female rabbi in the city, she has served as senior rabbi at the Reform congregation since 2003, taking over when Rabbi James Bennett relocated to Missouri to accept another pulpit.

However, Schindler shared that she was not leaving the Queen City. She is working on a book “to help congregations move from volunteerism to activism.” She is also a strong advocate for Israel and interfaith cooperation.

“Fellow clergy and other Charlotte leaders called Schindler a strong voice for the most vulnerable members of society and said they were encouraged she plans to remain in town,” the Observer said.

Rev. Steve Shoemaker, Myers Park Baptist Church’s former pastor, said that she “had a profound impact on the city.” The two led their congregants on a trip to Israel in 2013. “She’s been a champion of justice, an exemplar of Jewish piety and a leader in interfaith relationships, especially between the three Abrahamic faiths,” he added.

She has championed work with the at-risk children’s Shalom Freedom School, Room in the Inn and Mecklenburg Ministries. Maria Hanlin, former Mecklenburg Ministries executive director, in creating three award-winning documentaries focusing on congregational work with impoverished schools, affordable housing advocacy, as well as bullying in schools.

Schindler was inspired from an early age by her late father, Rabbi Alexander Schindler. The Observer reported, “As president of the national Reform Judaism association, Alexander Schindler established a towering record on social justice issues. He called on the Jewish community, for example, to welcome interfaith couples and gays and lesbians into synagogue life. Said Garmon-Brown of his daughter, ‘I think she is just following the spirit within her.’”

She and other local clergy took a number of couples to Washington, D.C., to officiate at same-sex marriages in 2011.

When marriage equality came to North Carolina, she performed the first same-sex wedding in the synagogue on Oct. 17 when she pronounced Kim Pearl and Karen Millman as legal spouses.

The Observer added, “The synagogue board has voted to bestow Emeritus status on Schindler, a designation that ‘will make permanent a relationship with Rabbi Judy going forward, no matter where her path may lead,’ temple President Jack Levinson wrote to Beth El members.”

— with The Charlotte Observer, a qnotes media partner

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Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.