Rabbi Keren Gorban spent much of her childhood struggling to choose between a future career as a doctor or a teacher.
“I really loved the idea of healing people and making them feel better, and … I naturally am teaching constantly,” she said.
After participating in the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), the youth movement of Reform Judaism, and attending Jewish day camps, Gorban realized that she could do both by becoming a rabbi.
“I also get to help people fall in love with Torah and Judaism,” Gorban said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Health: Science, Society and Policy from Brandeis University, she was ordained at Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion.
Gorban drove cross-country from Denver, Colo., to become Sinai’s new associate rabbi. Although she’d “never been to Pittsburgh before my interview,” she said she is “very excited … to be exploring a new city. From the experiences that I’ve had at Temple Sinai, everyone seems so warm and friendly and inviting, so I’m very excited to be in the community.”
Aside from getting to know her congregants and the wider Jewish community of Pittsburgh, she said that she’s eager to grow as a rabbi.
Gorban previously served congregations in Montana, Arizona and Canada’s British Columbia; taught Jewish history as a teaching assistant at the University of Southern California; and was a “strabbi” (student rabbi) at Shwayder Camp, according to her resume. She also served as a chaplain at St. Anthony’s Central Hospital in Denver.
Rabbi Jamie Gibson, senior rabbi at Temple Sinai, said his congregation is “very, very excited to have Rabbi Gorban coming to Temple Sinai.”
Congregants were looking for someone “who had a sense of herself and her rabbinate, and her vision, and her values.” Gorban was also a fit, said Gibson, because “she is highly skilled in her Hebrew, she has a background in the Reform youth movement, and she has an ability to relate to many different segments of our congregation, including the older cohort, and very young kids, and has an affinity for teens as well. Her rabbinic pastoral skill level is excellent.”
Gorban said that she “wanted to find an environment where I could continue exploring what it means to be a rabbi and to challenge myself to learn new ideas. I’ve been a rabbi for three years, but it’s still only three years out of hopefully a much longer career, and I’m still learning and growing.” She chose to come to Pittsburgh because she “wanted to be in a community where I felt at home, where I would want to be as a congregant, because that makes it so much more fun to serve as a rabbi.”
Gorban, with the start of her new position just days away, said her feelings are best explained in Hebrew: “The word for being excited is lehitragesh, which is also the word for being a little nervous. So, it’s that butterflies excitement in your stomach, with a little bit of nerves combined.”
Masha Shollar is an intern for The Chronicle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.