60 Seconds With Serena Eisenberg '87

By Emily Gold Boutilier / September / October 2005
April 27th, 2007

BAM As an undergrad, how active were you in Jewish life on campus?

Eisenberg I was part of a feminist Jewish study group with other women. We would get together around campus, in the dorms, trying to explore what it meant to be a Jewish feminist.

BAM What did you do after graduation?

Eisenberg I traveled as a backpacker. I was a social worker in the Bronx. I worked for Unicef in West Africa. I moved to California to get a joint degree in law and social work. All this time, inside this fire was burning to become a rabbi.

BAM What brought you back to Brown?

Eisenberg In 2002, I saw the job posting for Brown Hillel rabbi. I thought, This is the one job in the country I want. At the time, though, I was five months pregnant. My husband was president of a company in California. We were very settled.Ê [In 2004], when the job opened up again, I thought, We have to do it.

BAM What's the greatest challenge facing Hillel?

Eisenberg We need to overcome the stereotype that it is a place for geeks - that Jewish life is traditional and doesn't speak to students today. Contemporary Jewish life is so dynamic: There's a beer called he'brew. There's a klezmer group on campus. There's such richness in our traditions, and young people today will enrich Judaism for future generations.

BAM How do alumni fit in?

Eisenberg All alumni should call with their ideas. I want to create a network of women alumni who are Jewish professionals and lay leaders. At Brown I had no women as Judaic studies professors. I didn't know any women rabbis. I'd like to plan some kind of event to celebrate that we've come so far.

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September / October 2005