Like daughter, like mother

Meet the Rabbis Harari

Rabbis Harari image
Rabbis Carmit and Laura Harari, at a convention for the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Rabbi Carmit Harari used to call her mom once a week, but now, in the age of COVID-19, she calls her several times a day. 

While they share a strong mother-daughter bond, they also share something else- the title of rabbi. 

Carmit and her mother, Rabbi Laura Harari, were both ordained in 2008 from the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Carmit at the Cincinnati campus and Laura at the Los Angeles one. Rabbi Ze'ev Harari, Laura's husband and Carmit's father, was ordained at the school's Jerusalem campus. 

Carmit, an only child, holds a couple "firsts" in the rabbinical world. She is known to be the first rabbi who is the child of two rabbis, and she is the first rabbi ordained in the same year as her mother. She has been the rabbi at Shir Tikvah in Homewood since 2013. 

While she was born in Haifa, Carmit's midwestern roots run deep. She moved to Chicago when she was 12, and attended Solomon Schechter Day School and URJ Camp Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI)- where she later served as a faculty member. She was active in the Hillel at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1999. 

A few years after college, Carmit found herself back in Israel, where HUC students spend their freshman year. While she was there, her mother enrolled in the Los Angeles branch of HUC. 

Carmit held her first pulpit in Alberta, Canada. She stands on the shoulders of the women rabbis who came before her. "I did not face many challenges as a woman," she said, crediting the activism of previous generations. As a Generation Xer, she said, "I never knew a world without female rabbis. It was a field for women to enter." 

Her mother Laura grew up in Highland Park, where her parents raised her-"a child of the '60s, of social justice," she said. Her family joined Congregation Solel, where their rabbi, the late Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, ignited, she says, her "passion for learning."  

After graduating Barnard College, she earned her master's degrees in Judaica and Hebrew Letters from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. 

She then entered the field of Jewish education, teaching at schools and congregations from San Diego to Jerusalem. She started a Jewish high school in Evanston, and served as the principal of another in Orange County, Calif. In Haifa, while on another teaching job, she married Ze'ev. 

After many years of teaching, Laura wanted to take her Jewish communal career to the next level. "I was already doing many things that rabbis did," she said, "but not everything."  

She enrolled in rabbinical school, where she was exposed to more intense philosophers, and studied the Talmud. "For many years, I said, 'If I were a rabbi…' but now I am one," Laura said. 

Since her ordination, she has served as a chaplain in a hospital, led congregations, and officiated at lifecycle events. While semi-retired, Laura now teaches adult Jewish education. 

Laura kvells over her daughter's success. "I couldn't be prouder of her," said Laura, who now resides in Laguna Hills, Calif. "The decision to become a rabbi had to be hers; I wanted her to feel like she owns it. Each of us has to be authentic to who we are." 

For her part, Carmit had some initial apprehensions- she and her mother took similar classes, wrote their theses, and job-hunted at the same time. But she is now thrilled that everyone is part of "the family business." In the end, she said, "It turned out to be a wonderful thing." 

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