Former Temple Sholom rabbi dies

Rabbi Janice Garfunkel on the bima at Temple Sholom in Springfield
Rabbi Janice Garfunkel on the bima at Temple Sholom in Springfield

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

Rabbi Janice Garfunkel, who served as the rabbi of Temple Sholom in Springfield from 2004 to 2010, died on Oct. 26 in Cincinnati after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 54.

Born in New Jersey, she and her family moved to the Dayton area when she was in second grade and became active members of Temple Israel.

In a 2004 interview with The Observer, she said her experiences at Carleton College, a small liberal arts school in Northfield, Minn., led her to the rabbinate.

“I was very disappointed to find out there was not much happening there Jewishly,” she said at the time. She ended up as president of Jewish Students at Carleton in her freshman year. By the time she was a sophomore, she had 30 students signed up to eat a kosher meal every Friday night at the Jewish student house.

After graduation from Carleton, she returned to Dayton for a year and volunteered for the Dayton Free Clinic and Counseling Center near United Theological Seminary, then in Dayton View. There, she met a female minister from UTS; Garfunkel had never met a woman in the clergy before.

The minister allayed some of her concerns, especially her image of clergy as models of perfection. The conversation solidified Garfunkel’s determination to become a rabbi.

“It was really just seeing, here’s a woman, and she’s doing it and she doesn’t have to be a pioneer.”

Garfunkel received her ordination in 1988 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. She then served as assistant rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Worcester, Mass., lived in Israel for a few years, directed the Jewish Studies Center — an adult education institute in Washington, D.C. — and served for six years at Congregation B’nai Abraham in Hagerstown, Md. before her return to Ohio.

Citing budgetary woes, the board of Temple Sholom did not renew Garfunkel’s contract when it expired in 2010. Since then, the congregation has entered a partnership with Temple Israel; children from Temple Sholom attend Temple Israel’s religious school and clergy from Temple Israel lead services twice a month at Temple Sholom.

Garfunkel leaves behind two daughters, Aliza (14) and Eliana (10).


To view the print version of the December 2013 Observer, click here.

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