Above: Amy Bigman (l) and Beth Schafer (r)
Congregation Shaarey Zedek of East Lansing is celebrating the tenth anniversary of Rabbi Amy Bigman in their community this week, a celebration that will include special performances by Jewish singer-songwriter, Beth Schafer.
Schafer has been described as combining songwriting with “sensitivity to liturgy and unique insight toward text.” and won the 2006 American Idol Underground Faith-Based competition. Bigman says she's excited to welcome Schafer to “celebrate with the congregation and worship with them.”
On Friday, March 17, 2017 regular services will begin at 7:30 pm with Schafer joining Bigman and the Congregation’s cantor in leading worship. All members of the community are welcome to attend. There will also be a concert by Schafer on Saturday, March 18, at 7:30.
Bigman’s tenth year with Shaarey Zedek is part of her twenty-fifth year of service in the rabbinate. She will receive her Doctor of Divinity from her alma mater, Hebrew Union College--Jewish Institute of Religion, at the end of March. When asked why she chose to be a Rabbi, Bigman says she had felt drawn to professions that served people, and after working with her rabbi as a young woman, the rabbinate “seemed a good fit.”
She was selected by the Shaarey Zedek community on the recommendation of their Board after they interviewed several candidates in 2007. Her education and experience, beginning as a graduate of University of Michigan and then Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion was followed by serving in four other synagogues and the Ecumenical Institute for Jewish Christian Studies.
Bigman’s leadership at Shaarey Zedek, which combines Conservative and Reformed Judaism, is widely recognized. Congregant Lynn Rycus notes that Rabbi Bigman is “a good person and great with children. She has brought young families into the community.” The Rabbi has introduced the youth-targeted Friday Night Live, which takes place once a month and features worship in both English and Hebrew, as well as music and dancing.
Bigman has also been active in Ecumenical outreach, working with Christians and Muslims to foster understanding. According to Alice Townley, Associate Pastor for Parish Life at The Presbyterian Church of Okemos, “soon after Amy arrived, she saw the need to revitalize the East Lansing Clergy Association. The clergy group had dwindled to be just about three men who would go out to lunch. Amy reached out to build relationships with colleagues from many traditions. She still regularly takes clergy new to town out to lunch to welcome them. She has nurtured a supportive interfaith clergy community that leads the area in dialogue and cooperation.
As part of this ongoing commitment to strengthening interfaith connections, Shaarey Zedek will join The Peoples’ Church and The Islamic Center of Greater Lansing on Sunday, April 2 for a Community Pilgrimage in which participants will “re-affirm their commitment to interfaith solidarity, friendship, support of one another, and harmony between all peoples.”
Congregation Shaarey Zedek is located at 1924 Coolidge Road, in East Lansing.