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BEST OF JEWISH PHOENIX 2016 2323 The Womens Jewish Learning Center in Scottsdale isnt just an award-winning nationally recognized institution Its also the fulllment of a lifelong dream. Its the realized dream of Rabbi Elana Kanter who says before I knew that women could be rabbis when people asked me What do you want to be when you grow up I would say Id like to teach Talmud to women. When the Jewish Theological Seminary opened its doors to women in 1984 Kanter was in the rst class but she always kept the dream of teaching women in particular. And in 2010 she founded the WJLC. I turned 50 she says and I said the dream has been there for a long time if not now when The organization oers dynamic and innovative Torah study toward its three stated goals for individual women to grow intellectually and spiritually for Jewish womens organizations to enhance Jewish literacy of members and for the Greater Phoenix Jewish community to strengthen and expand the presence of women in Jewish communal leadership. Since 2012 the WJLC has made the annual Slingshot guide a publication of innovative and inspiring projects and programs in the North American Jewish community. Theres a dierent dynamic around the table when its only women Kanter says and so that makes it a special environment for some women a safer environment. Thats been wonderful. The WJLC is not the only place where Kanter teaches The New Shul which she founded with her husband Rabbi Michael Wasserman will celebrate its 13th birthday this year. Thats another little dream come true she says. The New Shul is deeply traditional but also ercely egalitarian she says. Were not huge 150 families but we have a very beautiful community of people. Were able to pray with intensity and learn with intensity. With two rabbis as parents Kanter and Wassermans three adult children grew up heavily involved in synagogue life which Kanter says taught them about welcoming the stranger into their home Our kids know that they may BEST OF JEWISH PHOENIX 2016BEST OF JEWISH PHOENIX 2016 23 by jennifer goldberg photo by ken brown photography Elana Kanter know the people who are coming over and they may not know the people who are coming over but well sit down well break bread together and the value of being a part of the community. Pretty much anything that the shul was doing they were doing she says. Its something Kanter can relate to her father was a Conservative rabbi and living life in community and contributing to community was sort of very much woven in the fabric of our life she says. From her mother she learned the informal spiritual parts of Judaism about appreciating every single day and every single minute and the importance of our relationships with the people we love. That knack for fostering relationships is one of many skills Kanter sees women bringing to Jewish communal life. Sometimes some of the most collaborative undertakings of the community come because two women heads of agencies are very much oriented toward working together she says. To women who are looking to become more involved in the Jewish community Kanter gives the following advice Dont give up. If you dont nd it on the rst try if you dont nd it on the second try just persist because there is a place for you and you will be a blessing to the Jewish community if you can just nd that place. But no matter where or how a woman gets involved Kanter believes that more female participation can only benet the community. We desperately need more women bringing their skills their presence their strengths their talents their perspectives to these organizations she says and to the extent that that increases I think the Jewish community will be the stronger for it. kanter rabbi elana.indd 23 12216 1050 AM