Rabbi Betsy Forester came to Beth Israel Center as a master teacher and religious leader skilled at helping people build meaningful lives through transformative Jewish experiences rich in authenticity, depth, empowerment, intellectual rigor, sacredness, and joy. She is a warm, intellectual, visionary leader and educator who melds the best of Jewish tradition with a love of humanity and dedication to improving our world.
Her path to the rabbinate prepared her to understand the needs of the present moment and to make Jewish learning and practice relevant to today’s seekers at every stage of life. Rabbi Forester has spent her entire life deeply engaged in Conservative Judaism, and her practice accords with traditional, egalitarian, forward-thinking, Conservative Judaism. She has led numerous religious and educational programs in communal, educational, professional, and Camp Ramah settings.
Rabbi Forester chose the traditional model of private s’michah (ordination) through an individualized, thoughtfully designed, post-denominational program in which she studied with world-class rabbis and scholars across the denominational spectrum. Her training included coursework at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS). Rabbi Forester’s rabbinical training and ordination were supervised by a beit din (rabbinic court), and she was ordained on June 4, 2018, by Rabbi Irwin Kula. Rabbi Forester has also studied at the Svara Yeshiva and Hadar Institute and completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). She is a fellow at The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL).
Rabbi Forester holds a B.A. in Hebrew and Semitic Studies and Communicative Disorders, with a certificate in Integrated Liberal Studies, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds an M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Jewish Professional Studies from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. Before coming to Beth Israel Center, Rabbi Forester served as Director of Jewish Life and Learning at Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago. Prior to that, she taught Talmud, Bible, and Prayer to adolescents, mentored Judaic Studies teachers, and worked nationally to develop standards for prayer education and Talmud education. Earlier in her career she was a speech-language pathologist.
Rabbi Forester and her husband, Scott, have three adult children. Rena lives in Israel, Benjy began his second year of rabbinical school at JTS in 2019, and Shira graduated from UW-Madison in 2019 and has been teaching in the Beth Israel Talmud Torah since 2015.
Rabbi Forester joined Beth Israel Center as our spiritual leader in 2018.