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This is Meryl Sachs in an interview for the Teaneck Oral History Project. I am speaking with Rabbi Deborah Prinz, the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Am in Teaneck, NJ. The date is March 27th and our time is 4:30 and our place is Congregation Beth Am in the Rabbi's study.
(I) I thought a good place to start would be to talk about your young and your growing up years so would you tell us please when you were born and where you were born.
(N) I was born in Los Angeles, CA February 24, 1951.
(I) Now I'd like to talk to you a bit about your growing up years and what they were like. Specifically maybe you could tell us about your parents religious orientation, by that I mean, how religious were they and I'll ask you also in a moment the types of schools you went to. So first please tell us where your parents were in term of religion.
(N) My parents belonged to a Reformed congregation when I was very young and when I was just a little bit older than very young, they belonged to a Conservative congregation. Basically, they were not ideological Jews but joined a congregation various congregations for pragmatic reasons wherever it was convenient to join. However, they were strongly identifying Jews and they still are and I think that a large part of my sense of connectedness to the Jewish community comes from them even though on Friday nights we lit the candles if my mother remembered to put the candles out on the table. If she didn't remember to put them out and sometimes she didn't, we didn't light them. Maybe our practice was haphazard in some degree but our celebration of Pasach and Channukah was, and the high holidays, was significant in each of us, my sisters and I, had Hebrew school training and training for confirmation in a conservative setting.
(I) You mentioned your sisters. How, where are they today in terms of their own religious affiliations?
(N) I think they both also strongly identify with the Jewish community and are probably most involved in Jewish life through family and not formally affiliated with congregations at this point. I, only my middle sister is married and has a family and perhaps she will some day soon affiliate.
(I) Let's talk about the types of schools that you attended and by that I mean public schools or parochial schools or private schools and I am skipping here, your early childhood education through high school.
(N) It was all public schools. It was public schools in Los Angeles initially and then public schools in other towns all the way through high school.
(I) What about any early religious, formal religious training.
(N) My formal religious training was through initially that Reformed congregation that my parents belonged to for a few years and then for the most part however it was a conservative congregation which I think we joined when I was in the fifth grade and I continued to study there through the tenth grade. And I was active in the Youtl1 Group. And my high school offered Hebrew so I also studied Hebrew at my high school.
(I) Were there any significant effects that either of these places had upon you?
(N) Significantly positive. I think I always enjoyed for some peculiar reason going to religious school and I can only remember once trying to convince my mother not to let me go and faking a fever not to have to go. But for the most part, I enjoyed it and I think the school had an impact on me but I think also the Youth Group had an impact on me. I think my high school had an impact on me because it was a primarily Jewish high school and the social relationships I had in school carried over to the social relationships I had in my synagogue.
(I) When you say Jewish high school, do you mean a Jewish student population?
(N) Yes, Jewish student population, right.
(I) Now this has been very explanatory but let me ask you this - was there anything else in your childhood that might have lead to your desire in same way to became a rabbi or was it at a period where you were non-committed to a particular area?
(N) well I think one thing that I should mention just in terms of background is that my parents both are European and that they are not technically survivors in the sense that we use the terms survivors of the Holocaust, they are in a more general sense, survivors. Their lives were effected by tl1e Holocaust. They were immigrants, refugees and then immigrants to the United States. They were young. My mother was eight and my father was twelve when they came to this country. I think that experience formed their Jewish identity and it formed ours as well. One of the things we used to hear about the house is that we can't let Hitler's work be completed by not participating in the Jewish community. And it was always kind of general identification, not specific through ritual practice but my father did go through a period of time where he forced us all to go to services together. Forced us all to go to services together.
(I) Why did he do that?
(N) Because he felt strongly that we needed to know who we are, who we were. And he wanted us to feel comfortab1e in that setting and he thought that that was the best way to accomplish that. I did not decide when I was a child, if that's your question, to become a rabbi. I didn't decide to become a rabbi until much later. So it is hard, I did not, I had an affinity for things that were Jewish and I felt comfortable but no decision was made while I was a child or even an adolescent. I didn't know that women could be rabbis. I did not really think about it as a possibility for me though I admired the rabbis that I knew.
(I) You jumped ahead of my question. Let me ask you, so your parents provided certainly an incentive but it was possibly an unconscious one, where
(N) Unconscious for the rabbinate, you mean. They also had great admiration for rabbis, for their rabbi, but I don't think they ever said, well maybe one day you'll grow up to be a rabbi. They always encouraged us to be trained somehow professionally so that we would be, after they had three daughters, they were concerned that we would be self-sufficient in some way. So there was always recognition that we should be something constructive and positive with our lives but not necessarily, they never said, you should be a rabbi. Never. It never occurred to them.
(I) So you went through your elementary years, you went through high school and then you entered college. Where did you go to college and what was your major?
(N) I went to the University of California at Los Angeles and I majored in Sociology.
(I) Now another, I think, hopefully logical question would be, is what or who or combination of both might have influenced you in college to take the path that you chose to take?
(N) Well probably a number of things. First of all, I spent my sophomore year of college in Israel at the University of Tel Aviv on a program there and I was involved in activities at Hilel and at UCLA where things were very, very active. There was a lot of creative programming in the arts and study for the college students so I was touched by those and I was involved in those things and, but it wasn't until I finished my BA that I heard about the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, this program in Jewish education, and I did that.
(I) I'd like to go back just for one moment just to ask you to tell us what Hilel is.
(N) Hilel is a national Jewish system of organizations or chapters at college campuses sponsored and funded in part by B'Nai B'rith. It used to be fully funded by B'Nai B'Rith and now partially funded by local federations as well.
(I) All right. So you had a background and you felt a certain desire to continue at least your interest in Jewish studies, the Jewish life, is that right?
(I) All right. Now did you immediately enter rabbinical school or what was your, what happened after you graduated from college?
(N) I graduated college and I went to the Hebrew Union College for a Masters in Jewish education. It was while I was there studying that I took courses with rabbinic students and I, of course, saw what the rabbinic students were doing and became much more interested in a rabbinic program. I transferred after the first year from the Masters program to the Rabbinic program. I wanted to be able to study more fully and in more depth. The Masters program was a two year program; the Rabbinic program was a five year program with one year in Israel and I felt my commitment was still to teaching in education, it had become a broader commitment in terms of that rather than simply, or not so simply, running a school or teaching in a school, a Jewish school, I was interested in doing more wide ranging teaching.
(I) Was your orientation becoming more I guess in essence more religious in context?
(N) I don't think it was a change in terms of religious emphasis. I think it was a change in terms of willingness to study and becoming more aware of the possibilities for me to study. It was in the year that I transferred into the Rabbinic program that Sally Preeson was first ordained a rabbi and then I heard about her really. I should have heard about the fact that she was from school but I didn't really hear about her until she was really ordained and it was a scary thing. She was ordained in Cincinnati, not in Los Angeles, but nevertheless, the campuses are connected and there is more than a grapevine and I should have known that this was happening but I didn't and even so, I mean there was still only one person who had been ordained and that was a little bit intimidating.
(I) A simple question. When did you graduate?
(N) From rabbinical school? 1978.
(I) Now I am going to ask you a question that so many people have already asked you and that has to do with being a rabbi who is also a woman. I'd like to get back just a bit and ask what feelings did you have during the time you were a student, rabbinical student, about any obstacles that you might face because you are a woman?
(N) Are you talking about expectations, expected obstacles or actual obstacles?
(I) Well, how about both.
(N) I didn't really anticipate too many obstacles. It was maybe naive. It was maybe stick your head in the ground, deny the potential problems, but I didn't really anticipate too many and, in fact, in Los Angeles where the school was, I already knew people in the school and I knew faculty members and where the faculty is relatively young and the school is relatively forward-looking, there weren't any, there really weren't any. There was one professor whose reputation was such that he made it hard on woman but I did not truthfully experience that. I think some of the professors had to adjust their initial remarks - instead of saying, gentlemen, when they began the class, they had to learn to say ladies and gentlemen or something other
(I) They do that in other schools too.
(N) They do it everywhere, I am sure. So there were minor adjustments for the faculty members but I was not the only woman in my rabbinical class fortunately.
(I) How many were there?
(N) When I started there were two and there had been one, at least one, prior I mean going through the Los Angeles campus. I was ordained one of four and technically by seconds I was the fourth woman ordained a rabbi but they followed me by minutes so it was kind of a mute point. In reality, at the Cincinnati campus things were a little harder. I transferred after two years from LA to Cincinnati and
(I) Why did you transfer?
(N) That's the normal process. Everybody, the LA school is simply grants a Masters Degree after two years, every rabbinic students transfers, either to Cincinnati or to New York, so we made a choice to transfer, my husband and I, Mark Hurwitz and I, transferred to Cincinnati and that's the oldest of the four campuses of the Hebrew Union College and it was built clearly to house and accommodate men. The lavatory facilities on the second and third floor of the library building are, there is only one set, and they are designed for men so women either turned those into unisex lavatories or went to the first floor or to the fourth floor.
(I) In away, there were subtle difficulties.
(N) There were architectural differences, OK? So you have to be reminded several times a day that the building and the school was not intended for you initially. The gym is rather old and only really had accommodations for men, accommodations for women were added on very late and they were just pretty haphazard. But it was, it is an old campus. However, and the faculty I think was a little more resistant though what I found to be helpful was to be a good student. To be a good student was a convincing element for everybody. It is OK if they are good students, they are serious. People needed apparently to be convinced that we were, that this was not a fad and it wasn't just to test and we weren't going to turn the place upside down but that we are serious about the rabbinate, serious about the Jewish community.
(I) You are speaking I think about women who determined they would like to re rabbis, is that right?
(N) Yes. That's right.
(I) Did you seek any advice from anyone as to what it might be like entering the rabbinate as a woman and if you did, did you get any?
(N) Actually I didn't, peculiar as it sounds I mean now. But I of course talked to my family and I talked to my husband-to-be. He wasn't my husband at the time. Mark. And it felt like the right thing to do. And after all there weren't that many people who knew what it would be like. Sally Preeson was just ordained. Her experience was one experience and it wasn't necessarily something that one can generalize from and she did move to New York to take a job at Steven Weiss Free Synagogue as the assistant rabbi. So but I frankly did not speak to her and I didn't have any communication with her until I met her at one conference when I was a student and she was already obviously ordained so I can't explain that except to say perhaps there just wasn't a track record that anybody could really turn to and there wasn't too much that anybody could say with any certainty that I could probably hypothesize myself .
(I) Because there was no precedent, your parents really didn't have much to go by in terms of offering their advice, concern or anything else. How did they react, especially when you did tell them that you were determined to become a rabbi?
(N) Their reaction was so I guess supportive and unquestioning that I don't even remember exactly what they said. I don't even remember the specific moment. It is just, it wasn't, in some senses it wasn't even really very outstanding. They didn't question, they were totally supportive and I can't even, never have they said well maybe you shouldn't or maybe it is not the right thing for you. Never did they say maybe it is going to be too hard for you as a woman. Not once was there any question.
(I) What parents! Let's now perhaps talk about you and Mark just a bit and I know you mentioned before that you are married to a fellow rabbi and that is Mark Hurwitz and of course now you have a darling little daughter. We'll come to her in a few minutes. Would you tell us please where you met him and when you met him?
(N) I met Mark through UCLA's Hilel although he was not a student at UCLA. He was involved there and I met him through assorted activities there (not sordid, assorted activities there) and I guess that we met in about 1970 initially though we certainly did not begin to become serious or involved in any way at that point. I knew he was around at that point. He knew I was around at that point.
(I) Now you have known him a long tine. When were you actually married to Mark?
(N) We were married in June of 1973. That was the summer that we left for the rabbinic program. We applied to the rabbinic program separately obviously. As singles. And decided to get married after each of us was accepted and going to, knew we were going to Jerusalem.
(I) Can you tell us some of the positive aspects or benefits about being married to a fellow rabbi?
(N) Well there are probably several. One at least is that we share a strong commitment to the same thing to the Jewish community and to Jewish life and we support each other's work towards that goal. Another is that we share a library. You don't have to have duplicate copies of books. Another is that we are able to kind of talk shop. That is, of course, at the same time negative but we are able to help each other out and provide another insight to provide another bit of information, really help fill out each others experience and perspective.
(I) OK. Let's take another aspect. What difficulties do you find or encounter in being married to a rabbi?
(N) I think the one that I suggested before, the difficulty of talking shop. I mean there are times when it would be nice to just go home in a sense that you leave your work and not have to confront it in another dimension, whatever dimension, again at home. And another is in terms of mobility . I think there are some professional couples whose professions enable them to be mobile; our profession is such that I am not so sure that that is the case. Especially since in some areas we have narrowed our interests. There used to be a time when we are very much more broadly interested in areas of the rabbinate, that is to say graduate work or academic work or Jewish library or Jewish museum work and as we become older and more committed to the work that we are doing, it is a little bit harder to, for all of us, each of us, to find satisfying work.
(I) All right. I am going to take us away from you and Mark for a moment but not exactly because I'd like you to perhaps just tell us a little bit about your daughter Abigail, when she was born and anything you wish to tell us about her.
(N) Abigail was born nine months ago today, June 27, 1983. What can I tell you? I mean, I can provide photographs if you like for the archives. She's terrific. It is wonderful. She is wonderful. She's starting to recognize her name and we are teaching her Aramaic and Hebrew and Syriac and all those things. She is studying Talmud. She is making her way through the Talmud. What an interview.
(I) OK. let me ask you this. How are you and Mark managing parenting with both of your having rather busy schedules?
(N) How do we manage? Mark's working part time at this point. He was unemployed for several months. He is part time and almost major caretaker or primary caretaker of Abigail and that is how we manage. We manage because he is available and because he wants to be available and because he makes himself available and I am fortunately able to do some of my work at home so that if there is not an emergency, I can perhaps prepare some sermon materials or something at home and can be with her a little bit. And I am in and out of the house and we do have babysitting help but primarily, Mark does a lot and spends a lot of time with her.
(I) Do you think Mark feels comfortable with this?
(N) Mark loves doing this. Mark loves doing this. They have a wonderful relationship. He has work of course that he needs to do at home as well and I think each of us has a very hard time pulling ourselves away from her to do our work. I think most parents have that problem.
(I) Before we turn to your arrival in Teaneck, I am just going to ask you if you would like to tell me about any event important in terms of your evaluation or even unimportant that was perhaps a part of your life that I've neglected to ask you about and that could be in terms of religious life, or your secular life.
(N) I can't think of anything right now.
(I) All right. Then we will go on. OK. Now the next question is - and this is what will be of great importance to our oral history - is I am going to make it a twofold question: When did you come to Teaneck and what were the circumstances that brought you here?
(N) We came to Teaneck two and a half years ago. Which would make it 1981. It was September of 1981. Why did we came to Teaneck? I came to Teaneck in order to assume the position of spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Am after having served as the assistant rabbi at Central Synagogue for three years where the assistantship is a rotating assistantship and had done my stint there and was ready to move on.
(I) let me solidify this question a bit more. Why did you decide truly to come from the west coast to the east coast and decide upon Teaneck after your "internship" so to speak in Central Synagogue?
(N) Well the move from Los Angeles was to the east coast via Cincinnati. We came to New York from Cincinnati so that I could take the job, this position, at Central Synagogue. It was basically a career decision, a job decision and we moved from New York to Teaneck again because of a career decision and a job decision. The advantages for us of Teaneck had to do with being close to New York, being close in a sense that Mark could continue to work there and or at least in the New York area where he was working already and, of course, because of the cultural aspects of New York and because Teaneck to us sounded like a very intriguing town and so it has continued to be in fact.
(I) I'll ask you about that a little bit later. Now, when you were interviewed for the position at Beth Am, again I hate to keep brining this up but it is something that does always on people's minds at this point, and that is, did the question of being a woman enter the interviewing process at all?
(N) I am sure it did because I don't think any congregation, or most congregations in our day would interview without some kind of recognition of the newness or the novelty or the curiosity for some people of women rabbis. The reality is that now there are sixty women rabbis ordained by the Reformed movement which is certainly many more times than when I was ordained but still not a tremendous number of people. When I came to Beth Am, it was of course less. Fewer women. So I must imagine and extrapolate from that that there were conversations here about my being a woman. In order to really pinpoint what those were, you'd have to talk to the lay people because I wasn't privy to those conversations. The only thing that come up at my interview that I recall as an issue was a very direct question that I think was designed to allow me to respond to what mist have been some people's concerns about whether I would be a one issue person. My resume clearly has - the question was something like - we see on your resume that you have been involved in a group called Feminists of Faith in the Women's Rabbinic Alliance and what else are you interested - basically it was what else are you interested in but it was articulated as - how do you as a woman rabbi define your relationship to the feminist community, something to that effect. Which I think expressed the concern of the congregation, not necessarily that individual, that a woman coming to a, a woman rabbi might abuse the pulpit or use the pulpit only for what were so-called women's issues. Women's issues which I consider to be people's issues, like free choice for abortion and things like that. I indicated that because women in the rabbinate is such a new phenomenon now, I would say the same thing, that we each have a sense of responsibility or I feel a sense of responsibility to participate in organizations that support women in the rabbinate, support women in Judaism, support women
(END OF SIDE 1, BEGIN SIDE 2)
(I) This is Side 2 of our tape. We have had a bit of a problem but we are going to go ahead with our questioning. Rabbi Prinz, what do you see as your main role within the Temple community?
(I) I see my main role as teacher but not teacher in a sense of classroom teacher. Teacher who has an opportunity to teach about Judaism at lots of moments, at committee meetings, board meetings including classroom teaching, adult education, teaching of children and teaching from the pulpit and that means as well making connections with people being a matchmaker in a sense between people and Judaism, between people and people in a Jewish sense, helping those, reaching out to people who are in need of some kind and making connections for them, reaching out to people who want information about Judaism or need information about Judaism and making connections for them. Making connections between generations. So that's a very general response but that's how, if I have to say it, have a general category, that's what I would point to.
(I) Could you elaborate a bit on bringing the generations together?
(N) At this point, we do a little bit of programming for families. Sometime in the future, it would be nice to do more. We now do some family oriented preparation for Bar and Bat Mitzvah instead of isolating the Bar or Bat Mitzvah youngster out as an independent entity, I mean we try to work with the youngster as part of the family so the parents are going to be involved, siblings are going to be involved. A family that is going through a process of change as well as a youngster. And a family that is affirming a commitment to Judaism as well as a youngster affirming that commitment. We just had a wonderful grandparents Shabat where we honored grandparents and grandchildren and the response was terrific, the evening was terrific in a sense that it enabled each of those generations as well as the parents of the children and the children of the grandparents to celebrate their place in the family and to celebrate their connections or love for each respective generation. So those are the kinds of things that we do now in terms of inter-generational and hopefully we will do more. Those are specific things. The overall perspective is that certainly everyone is welcome, every age is welcome, and we try to do all inclusive programming rather than fragmentary programming. Rather than isolating people out or separating people out.
(I) You have certainly approached a number of positives. Can you tell us what are some of the difficulties that you find in being the spiritual leader of a congregation? I am not quite sure whether to say congregation, congregation in general. Maybe you'd like to approach both aspects of it?
(N) Well I think perhaps the challenge of being a spiritual leader in any congregation is that one has a vision of a community or a synagogue or maybe other than at church, it could be even, and in order to achieve that vision, one works and has to have patience. In other words, change does not happen overnight and change in and of itself is, of course, not positive necessarily or good or desirable but some changes are, and some changes are inevitable and that nevertheless all takes time and sometimes it is hard to be patient and sometimes it is hard to know how much time is really necessary to achieve change and which change takes how much time. In terms of Teaneck, I think actually I can't think of a particular problem except in this particular congregation the fact that it is a split. It was formed as a result of a split and without taking a position, one side or the other on this split, I am certainly grateful that this congregation exists, I think that there is some, the reality is that there are two Reformed congregations in town and that makes this congregation's survival precarious sometimes. But nevertheless there is also perhaps sometimes a source of its strength. So on the other hand, there are certainly many positives being spiritual leader in Teaneck and for a synagogue to be located in Teaneck because it is a very vital and vibrant Jewish community.
(I) Let's go on to Teaneck at large. This is a difficult question to ask to somebody who has not been here too terribly, terribly long but I think it would be helpful to know what your feelings about Teaneck are in general. Maybe I ought to put it this way - maybe I should ask you perhaps what are your positive feelings number one and than I will go on after you answer that and ask you where you think Teaneck can improve or change or modify itself, if indeed you feel it should. Let's start in with what are your positive feelings about Teaneck?
(N) Well this is really the first small town that I have lived in so I can't compare it to Manhattan and I certainly can't compare it to Los Angeles and it is my first experience with small town life. Obviously this was a small town in a large city suburban area. But I must say that I am very impressed with the seriousness with which the people take town matters and the interest that they take in what happens in their community and the energy that is here and that is used to address issues, social issues, cultural issues, political issues, public issues altogether. And I think that that is a wonderful strength. I think the fact that Teaneck values and, or that many people in Teaneck value diversity is a strength and though that sometimes leads to problems or you know presents problems, different views, different priorities, it is nevertheless a strength and certainly makes it an interesting town in which to live. I can't understand (inaudible) so I am impressed with Teaneck. It so happens that I live next door to Frank Burr who is a former mayor of Teaneck and I live across the street from a woman who is a pediatrician and works out of her home and the diversity in Teaneck is just remarkable and I think in terms of issues to address, is an issue that I think the community is already addressing or beginning to address or trying to address, I don't know what the solutions are but I think the school system, my observation (gap in tape) is an issue that people are addressing which is the schools and the public school system in town and I, certainly there are many people who know the school system much better than I do and I am really only an observer. I don't have children in school, I don't work in a school system, but it is my observation that in this community as well as in many others probably, the public school system is in dire straights and needs more support. I think the teaching profession needs more support
(I) (Inaudible - much noise in background) that you'd like to talk about in terms of Teaneck and let's say your role in Teaneck.
(N) There, my involvement in the community at this point has been limited given that I am relatively new in town, that I am learning about my congregation at the same time that I am learning about the community and, of course, to some degree the first has to be a priority and given that I have had a child this year so that my time is a little bit limited but one of the ways that I think probably needs to be pursued and that I've heard peripheral things about is our youth and summer programming for our youngsters and maybe even not summer programming for our youngsters and maybe there is something to it with regard to the racial situation in the community, at least in our schools and our relationship between our teenagers, racial relationship between our teenagers. Though I have only heard kind of peripheral things and it is not something that I have examined closely.
(I) IX) you want to elaborate on that?
(N) I don't think I can at this point because I don't think I know enough about it.
(I) Let me ask you this - let's go beyond the schools and beyond the racial situation, and that is how has the community reacted to you coming here?
(N) Are you talking about the Teaneck community at large? (Yes) Well I don't know who the community really is but you know there are certainly numbers of the Orthodox Jewish community that have been welcoming - the Women's (that is a group of Orthodox women who meet once a month to basically lead their own service and do things in their service that they normally would not be able to do in an Orthodox synagogue, read from the Torah scroll for instance, and they've been very welcoming. That's been nice. There are other parts of the Orthodox Community that have certainly not been antagonistic but have not been as welcoming as maybe other parts of the community have been. For instance, if you consider the Board of Rabbis, the Bergen County Board of Rabbis, part of the community, they were very welcoming to me when I came. They wanted to make sure that I knew that I , as a woman, would be welcome to join their Board of Rabbis even though initially they, this has not been for many years, some of the Boards of Rabbis have not been so welcoming to women and that took a little time. Mayor Hall asked me to sit on a committee. At the time, I had to say, thank you but no thank you. It was a Task Force on Women in town. A lot of organizations have asked me to speak on women and Judaism, on the role of women today, and I have, when I can, done that.
(I) How about your just coming in as Rabbi Deborah Prinz period rather than as Rabbi Prinz, woman rabbi. How has the community reacted in terms of your just being here.
(N) Ask the community. I really don't know. I feel a member of the community. I don't know what the reaction has been actually. I don't know how to respond to that. St. Mark's Episcopal Church and Congregation Beth Am have a dialogue, I mean that is a segment of the community which has responded to this congregation, but beyond that I really, I am not sure how to point my finger on an answer to that question.
(I) Do you feel a welcome rather than an indifference?
(N) Oh I do feel a welcome. Yes. And I do feel an interest. Yes, it has been positive.
(I) Have you joined any committees in the community yourself?
(N) I sit on the Board of the Community Chest and that's all.
(I) Do you feel an active role in the community (inaudible)
(N) You mean like School Board things
(I) It could be any committee whatsoever.
(N) Well I must say that unfortunately, or fortunately, for better or for worse, I am very often at committee meetings for the synagogue and therefore it is hard for me to get away to other things. Monday and Wednesday nights definitely I am here. Sunday nights I am here, some Tuesday nights, lately it has been many Tuesday nights I am here. Thursday nights I try not to do much and spend the time at home with my family but that pretty much takes up the time when there are evening meetings. I do yes participate in the National Council of Jewish Woman from time to time and I do participate in Hadassah from time to time but in terms of the secular community, and Hadassah and National Council Because they are daytime unless they ask me to do something, you know, as a professional, as a rabbi in a community which I am happy to do, schedule permitting ,
(I) Have you had any involvements at all with any of the secular institutions in town? It could be in anything, let's say from the library to
(N) Well we are members, for instance, we are members of the Teaneck Housing Council and we are members of, we are Friends of the Library, but frankly I don't very often get to meetings other than meetings here. We do use the library.
(N) A resource. Oh yes, it is a terrific resource.
(I) All right. Just let me ask you this then - what is there that you would like to attend to within the town that you have not yet approached?
(N) And participate in?
(N) Well, I hear about these wonderful chamber music concerts. That would be nice. And TAP, and that would be nice. And there is folk dancing and that would be nice and those are cultural and entertainment types of things. And I had really wanted for a long time to get to some Board of Education meetings but they are often on Monday nights and those are the nights when I am already committed at the congregation so I have promised myself that sometime I will just run out of the meeting early from synagogue and try to get there because I think it is, you know, those are really important things to know about. I do follow the news as much as I can out of the local papers and I try to learn through my congregants what's happening. But those are some of the things. There is a lot going on in Teaneck. I am sure I don't know all of what there is out there.
(I) This interview is really for our archives - what are your feelings at the present time about remaining in Teaneck?
(N) I think that it would be very nice to be able to stay in Teaneck for a long, long time. We are making the house livable and the community is a challenging community in which to live and it is a community that has a lot of resources, a community that has a lot of potential and a lot of strengths. Well you know, some of the things that I referred to before. I think in terms of being a Jew in the community, there are a lot of talented and resourceful people and a lot of resources in the Jewish community . A lot of people who work both in Teaneck and don't work in Teaneck but live in Teaneck and so in a Jewish sense, there are a lot of riches to take advantage of and to be a part of and not to speak of New York as being so close by. And I think it is a nice, it is a wholesome community. I guess I haven't said that before but it strikes me as being so wholesome with so many mother and apple pie values really and, in the positive sense of those things.
(I) Are you speaking in terms of secular as well as
(N) Well I think, although I am not as familiar with the secular community as I am with the Jewish community, I think that those are there so I could see staying, raising a family, being here for a long time.
(I) Do you think you might, for example, send them to public school in Teaneck?
(N) Well at this point I don't know enough about the schools. I haven't examined the schools but I do have some concern about her Jewish education and I have for a long tine thought about the possibility of sending our children to, or our child, our children to a private school but we have not really made a decision nor have we (gap in tape)
(I) I'd like to ask you now if there is anything you would like to add about your life in Teaneck in general.
(N) No. I don't think that there is anything that I've left out.
(I) Rabbi Prinz, is there any change in what you've said or is there any clarification at all that you think that you would like to make in terms of what we've spoken about this afternoon?
(N) No, I don 't think so.
(I) OK. Then I have to just thank you for sharing your experiences with me and I will say to the committee, the Oral History Committee, that this is the end of the interview with Rabbi Deborah Prinz of Congregation Beth Am in Teaneck, NJ.
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