As Rabbi Tracee Rosen was unloading boxes after arriving in Arizona in 2010, her new neighbor informed her that a local Reform congregation, Temple Gan Elohim, was looking for a rabbi. She and her family had relocated to Greater Phoenix to be closer to her mother-in-law, moving from Salt Lake City, where she served for six years as the rabbi of Utah’s largest synagogue.
Her family attended Shabbat services there that Friday night and soon after, Rosen accepted an offer to become the congregation’s spiritual leader, a role she continued until the congregation closed in 2016.
When it closed, Gan Elohim was housed at Beth Emeth Congregation, a Conservative congregation in the West Valley, and Rosen was also leading Saturday morning services for Beth Emeth members. By the next year, she was Beth Emeth’s spiritual leader. Now, after a year of leading the congregation through a pandemic, she has announced that she plans to retire from the pulpit.
“This year of seclusion has given us all a lot of time to think about our priorities,” she said. “I looked at how my time was being spent and what I had energy for and what I didn’t have energy for.”
She plans to refocus on her family as well as continue teaching. Now that she’s grown comfortable with online teaching, she’d like to increase her online presence and has also “threatened to write a book” based on one of her classes, “Hidden Secrets of the Ten Commandments.” She was also recently appointed to serve on the Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which sets the halachic policy for the Conservative movement.
During her past decade or so in Greater Phoenix, Rosen served two years as the director of a Phoenix-based Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Studies program, was active in the Phoenix Board of Rabbis, taught Jewish studies and Hebrew classes at Pardes Jewish Day School in Scottsdale for six years and taught classes for the Women’s Jewish Learning Center in Scottsdale.
Teaching adults was what she originally envisioned doing when she enrolled in rabbinical school at the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University) at age 35, after a career in banking. She earned her smicha in 2000 from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, a Conservative seminary, and after completing a three-year apprenticeship at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California, she became the rabbi of Salt Lake City’s Congregation Kol Ami.
That congregation was a result of a merger between a Reform synagogue and a Conservative synagogue so she needed to serve members from both backgrounds and levels of observances.
Rosen and her wife, who have one child, plan to remain in Greater Phoenix and she plans to continue her work teaching classes for the Women’s Jewish Learning Center and serving on the grants committee for the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix, as well as continue her work as a hospital chaplain for Jewish Family & Children’s Service.
“One of the things that I love about this community is the friendship and collegiality among the rabbis in this community,” she said. “That’s been a source of great strength and support that we’ve been able to offer each other this past year and all the previous years.”
Rosen said one of the things she enjoyed most as a pulpit rabbi was the relationships she had with people through the years.
“It’s such an amazing honor to be invited into people’s lives” during these important lifecycle events such as births, b’nai mitzvah, weddings and funerals, and “being able to share that with people.” JN