Caplowe will leave B’nai Abraham in July
After 10 years as spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Abraham in Butler, during which she moved from being a vested cantor to an ordained rabbi as well, Adriane Caplowe has decided to move on.
Caplowe has told her congregation that she would leave B’nai Abraham in July to seek a larger congregation with new opportunities.
She made her decision after completing a three-year program of study through Jewish Renewal and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, which resulted in her ordination. Caplowe already held a master’s degree in sacred music from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
“There are wonderful families there (in Butler) and we have b’nai mitzvahs coming up,” Caplowe said, “but I just feel it’s time to spread my wings and use my skills in new ways.”
She and her husband, Joseph Felder, a math instructor at Shady Side Academy, hope to move closer to New York, where their daughter and granddaughter live.
Jewish Renewal is a worldwide, transdenominational movement grounded in Judaism’s prophetic and mystical traditions. Schachter-Shalomi, considered one of its major founders, was ordained as a rabbi in the Chabad-Lubavitch community in 1947 and became a teacher of Chasidism and Jewish mysticism He also participated in ecumenical dialogues throughout the world, including some with the Dalai Lama.
Though studying for the rabbinate through Jewish Renewal, Caplowe still considers herself a Conservative Jew, noting Jews from all streams are found within the group. “They (Jewish Renewal) don’t consider it to be a movement like Conservative or Reform,” she said.
Originally from Wadsworth, Ohio, Caplowe studied at Julliard before getting her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Mills College in Oakland, Calif. She went on to study at JTS, where she became a vested cantor in 1991.
She became interested in Jewish Renewal after attending a meditation study retreat for professionals in New York. “It took quite a long time before I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
When she did though, she studied not only for the rabbinate, but also to be a spiritual coach, someone who works one-on-one with individuals to enhance their spiritual connections to Judaism.
She described her Jewish Renewal experience as “looking at Judaism with fresh eyes.”
“It gives you that opportunity,” she said. “It’s not ‘this is how we do it and that’s it;’ you can explore it from many different ways. I think that’s very important.”
Judaism is going through “paradigm shift,” she said quoting a lesson from Schachter-Shalomi — a time when many Jews are unaffiliated and don’t relate to Judaism the way their parents did.
“So how do you reach people that will inspire them to remain in Judaism,” she asked. “I think that’s important work.”
Looking back on her time in Butler Caplowe is proudest of her work in spirituality to the community. She also did considerable interfaith work, and taught at Butler High School as well as Slippery Rock and Clarion Universities.
B’nai Abraham is an unaffiliated, though traditionally Conservative, congregation of about 80 families. It also has a religious school of 11 students.
Bernie Levine, president of B’nai Abraham, said the congregation would probably conduct a search in Pittsburgh and perhaps Cleveland for a new spiritual leader.
He noted though, that the congregation has not yet met to decide how to proceed.
“I don’t know if we need a full-time rabbi, but we’ll see what we get going,” Levine said. Commenting on Caplowe’s departure, he said, “It was 10 years and she thought it was time to go.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at email@example.com.)