Debra Marilyn Smith was among five rabbis who received ordination through the ALEPH Ordination Program of the Jewish Renewal Movement. Program dean Rabbi Marcia Prager was officiant at the ceremony, which also included two cantors and two rabbinic pastors, held on Jan. 10 at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Boulder, Colo.
In 2013, Smith founded and has served since as religious leader of Congregation Or Ha Lev in Succasunna, the only Jewish Renewal-affiliated congregation in northern New Jersey.
Smith holds a master’s degree in Jewish studies from Gratz College in Philadelphia and an MSW from Rutgers University. She completed a three-year post-graduate training program and received a certificate in family therapy from the Multicultural Family Institute of NJ in Highland Park.
Smith serves as cochair of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding’s NJ Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee and of the Morris County chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam-Shalom. Her ordination teaching addressed the issue of deep ecumenism and the work she does to increase understanding among different faith groups.
During her social work career, Smith was founder and chair of the ethics committee of the NJ chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. She is now a member of the ethics committee of OHALAH, the Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal.
The ordination is the kick-off of OHALAH’s annual rabbinic conference, which is held in Boulder, the hometown of the late Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal movement.
Smith and her husband, Dr. Neil Smith, live in Parsippany.