Rabbi Debra Orenstein comes to Congregation Bnai Israel after 18 years in Los Angeles. There, she was an instructor at the American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism), where she taught in the rabbinical, graduate school, undergraduate, conversion, Elderhostel, and continuing education programs. She served as spiritual leader of Makom Ohr Shalom, as well as a teacher and scholar-in-residence across North America, regularly speaking at synagogues, universities, and conventions.
She received her training at Princeton University (A.B. summa cum laude), University of Judaism (B.H.L.), The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (M.A. and ordination), The Neighborhood Playhouse, and The Meisner-Carville School (Two-year Program). She completed an internship in pastoral psychiatry at The Jewish Theological Seminary, as well as mediation, meditation, marketing, administrative, and new media trainings for rabbis.
Rabbi Orenstein is the author or editor of five books, including the award-winning Lifecycles book series: Lifecycles 1: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones, Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life, and the forthcoming Lifecycles 3: Jewish Women on Holy Days and Communal Celebrations*. She co-authored From Generation to Generation, a collection of sermons and Bible commentaries, with her grandfather, Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz. She has also written essays for The Women's Prophets Commentary (2004), Etz Hayim Humash (2001), and The Tallit (forthcoming), among others. She has written 30 columns for The (Los Angeles) Jewish Journal.
A frequent guest on radio and television, Rabbi Orenstein has appeared on dozens of media outlets, including as a repeat guest on WOR Radio, New York; Jewish Television Network; Good Day LA (Fox Television); and KABC Radio, Los Angeles. She also "worked her way through rabbinical school" as an actress and has appeared in a handful of films and numerous stage productions.
Debra's rabbinate represents both the inherited tradition and its flexibility in every age. A seventh generation rabbi, she is also an alumna of the first entering class at The Jewish Theological Seminary to include women. Her parents are Rabbi Jehiel and Sylvia Orenstein of South Orange, NJ. She is glad to be returning to the Garden State with her Californian husband, Craig, and their children, Emmett and Hannah Mathilda.