Judith Schindler

While the corporate glass ceiling is close to shattered, the stained glass ceiling has taken longer to crack. Finally, though, it’s not uncommon to see a woman wearing a robe at church these days, and we don’t mean choir robes. We spoke with seven of Charlotte’s female religious leaders to find out what they’re doing behind and beyond the pulpit

Written by Lori K. Tate
Photographs by Chris Edwards 

Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth El

Judith Schindler, Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth El

Judith Schindler, Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth El

If there ever was an "it" girl for women in ministry in Charlotte, it's Rabbi Judith Schindler. It's in her genes. For more than twenty years, her father, the late Rabbi Alexander Schindler, was president of the Union for Reform Judaism, one of the most prominent positions of Jewish leadership in the country.

As the first female senior rabbi at Temple Beth El (she beat out twenty-two men for the job), the energetic forty-one-year-old leads a congregation of more than 1,100 families. She's one of a handful of women rabbis in the United States who leads synagogues of the same size or larger, and she is the only woman in Charlotte leading a congregation that big.

The five-foot-two rabbi, who stands on a box to preach, is known throughout the city for her activism and interfaith work. When Katrina evacuees arrived at the former Charlotte Coliseum, she and many members of her congregation were there within hours to help. Temple Beth El also worked with Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte and Grubb Properties to adopt thirteen Katrina families for six months.

"As Jews, we don't pray in isolation but in community, and our synagogues are meant to have windows to inspire us to see the pain of the world outside and respond," she says. "My grandfather was an activist in Germany pre-Hitler. He wrote for an underground Yiddish newspaper…. My father was an activist…. I think it's just been part of the way I was raised, and it's an essential part in my eyes of the Jewish tradition."

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