Rooks becomes ‘emerita’ at Independence Weekend

Rabbi Gaylia Rooks will become the first rabbi emerita in Kentucky by the end of June. (Community photo)

Gaylia Rooks, the first woman rabbi in Kentucky history, will add one more first to her list this month when she becomes the rabbi emerita of The Temple, the first woman in the state to hold that title.
The Temple will mark the occasion at its Independence Weekend with singer/songwriter Joe Buchanan from Friday, June 29, to Sunday, July 1.
Rooks, who has been on sabbatical for the past six months, joins Rabbis Chester Diamond of The Temple and Stan Miles of Temple Shalom as rabbi emeriti in Louisville. She will use the feminine form of the word.
“I had the last six months on sabbatical to adjust to that idea,” Rooks said of retirement. “It’s a radical departure from working an average 70 hours a week and not feeling like I ought to be there for everyone at every moment. It’s given me more time for my music, poetry and art – the more creative things that I’ve been doing.”
Asked if being a rabbi emeritus means something different to her than to her male colleagues, Rooks said, “I’m going to find out.”
Officially transitioning to retirement doesn’t mean the end of work. Rooks said she might take a monthly pulpit somewhere. She is also working on a book with her art as the centerpiece.
“It’s about taking the path of mourning guided by the Hebrew aleph bet,” she said.
The Texas-born Buchanan, who is Jewish, plays “Americana music,” blending Torah values and Jewish history. He has performed at synagogues and conferences across the country.
Friday will be Independence Shabbat with Buchanan at 6:30 p.m. Women of Reform Judaism will hold a Red, White & Blue Oneg in Rooks’ honor at 7:30.
On Sunday, Buchanan will perform a concert at 4 p.m. A cookout will follow at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $5 for adults. RSVP by June 27 by calling 502-423-1818.
WRJ, Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, Institute for Southern Jewish Living, the Rabbi Gaylia R. Rooks Fund for Music, Janet and Joseph Myerson Performing Arts Fund and the Temple Brotherhood are sponsors.

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