Rabbi Batya Ellinoy

In Marblehead, Temple Sinai leaders sing praises of new cantor/spiritual leader Batya Ellinoy

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In Marblehead, Temple Sinai leaders sing praises of new cantor/spiritual leader Batya Ellinoy

Rabbi Batya Ellinoy

Rabbi Batya Ellinoy grew up watching her community sing.

Around age 10, her family began spending weekends in Palo Alto, Calif., to attend Shabbat services at Congregation Kol Emeth, about an hour and a half away from their home in Monterey. Some of her earliest role models were these rabbis and lay leaders.

“I would particularly look at a couple of the rabbis and be like, ‘I want to be like them when I grow up,’” she recalled. “And not necessarily in a rabbi way – they just embodied such chesed, such love, and patience. I was very inspired by them.”

Now a rabbi and service leader herself, Ellinoy is joining Temple Sinai of Marblehead as a cantor.

“Rabbi Ellinoy has an amazing ability to – what feels like – carry my soul along with her voice during prayer,” said Temple Sinai Rabbi Michael Schwartz. “I know many people in our community are experiencing the same phenomenon. As a person, she is so genuine and supportive, and those qualities manifest themselves in her service-leading. Each prayer, each song, each prayer-as-song feels like a spiritual gift.”

Ellinoy’s journey to the rabbinate was – in her words – a winding one. After distancing herself from Judaism for a period of time in her 20s, she found herself called back to the faith, moved by several transformative experiences in both dance and ecopsychology (the study of human and nature relationship), as well as Jewish Renewal.

“I realized that everything, all of the values that were most dear to me, were Jewish: healing, ritual, family, community – all of those things are very much at the heart of Judaism,” she said.

Years later, Ellinoy went back to school to formally take up three new fields: rabbinical studies at Hebrew College, a master’s in Jewish education, also at Hebrew College; and “on the back-burner” over several years, a certification in Somatic Experiencing, a practice that works with both physiology and psychology to support healing of trauma and stress disorders. The goal, in Ellinoy’s words, is “to feel, more regularly, what it often feels like on Shabbat – like a regulated ‘everything is OK in the world’ – even if there is stress, like: ‘I am OK.’”

In addition to her role at Temple Sinai, Ellinoy also is serving as rabbi-in-residence at BaMidbar Therapy in Newton, an organization devoted to supporting the mental health and wellness of Jewish teens and young adults.

Ellinoy received her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College in May 2022. Since then, she’s worked at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, where she served as upper school director, and coincidentally, where Tamar Forman (Rabbi Schwartz’s wife) also worked. Once Ellinoy had left her old position and Temple Sinai had an opening for a cantor, Forman saw a match. She gave Ellinoy a call.

As it turned out, Schwartz’s old synagogue – when he worked in California – happened to be that very shul where Ellinoy had grown up singing: Congregation Kol Emeth. Once, Schwartz even shared a Sukkot meal with Ellinoy’s father (z’’l), not knowing at the time that he would later welcome that man’s daughter into his synagogue in Marblehead.

Since August, Ellinoy has been serving in a cantorial capacity at Temple Sinai on and off – she has led several Shabbat and holiday services, as well as running a Hoshana Rabbah service in October. Now, she is joining the clergy team officially.

“She and the rabbi make a very good team,” said Susan Weiner, executive director of Temple Sinai. “I love having her. She’s a good person, she’s got a good neshama [soul], and she’s got the most amazing voice. She really takes you to places when you’re davening that’s really special.”

Ellinoy said her prayer services would be incomplete without the voices of the congregation. “I may be leading, but I’m leading with them, I’m leading alongside them,” Ellinoy said. “Hearing their voices in prayer, feeling their appreciation for my presence and what I bring as well is just really a gift.

“My service – it’s a collective enhancing of Shabbat, for all of us,” she said. “That enhancement can continue into their own well-being, and into their own lives and their relationships beyond my work, my service, my connection with them. It carries.” Θ

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