Feb. 17, 2010
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) Her mother survived the horrors of Auschwitz and the stories of her experiences instilled within Suzanne Singer a yearning to make the world a better place.
Singer, now Rabbi/Educator at Temple Beth El in Riverside, first pursued the cause of social justice through an Emmy-award-winning, 20-year career as a public television producer and programming executive, primarily for PBS. But after two successful decades striving to raise the national consciousness, Singer still felt empty.
Following months of soul-searching, Singer, in 1997 took a leap of faith, left all that was familiar and entered Rabbinical School at Hebrew Union College. She was ordained in May 2003 and set upon a career path by which she believed she could act on her faith and more closely participate in aiding humanity’s problems.
On Feb. 20 at 4 p.m., at the La Sierra University Church in Riverside, Singer will give a presentation titled “Judaism’s Mandate to Engage in Social Justice.” The event is part of La Sierra’s annual Paul J. Landa Memorial Lecture on Faith and Learning. The church is located at 4937 Sierra Vista Ave., Riverside. The La Sierra University School of Religion is sponsoring the program.
“The primary message of the talk is the obligation for Jews to become engaged in the work of social justice. This is an area that I am particularly committed to in my rabbinate and I value the fact that Judaism puts a premium on this area,” Singer said.
In her autobiographical essay, Singer writes, “I believe that in trying to make the world a more just place – more just for Jews and Blacks and Native Americans and Bosnians -- I am serving God and the Jewish people. I am drawing on Jewish values and I am representing Jewish ideals in my efforts to implement social justice. And by encouraging people to treat each other with compassion and respect, I am demonstrating my love for God.”
Singer felt compelled by her mother’s past encounters with terrible injustices to live a life dedicated to bettering the world. Her grandmother also influenced her. “My paternal grandmother was also very involved in volunteer work, particularly around prison reform. She was an inspiration to me,” Singer said.
During her television career, Singer pursued her interests in social justice causes through public affairs programming that included co-creation and production of a national preschool series instilling respect for diversity. Her achievements included two national Emmy awards as executive producer of the documentary series, “POV.”
Singer’s previous life in television prepared her in many ways for her future work as a religious leader and social change advocate. “I think that working in television helped me to take complex subjects and make them accessible to the average person. This has been very helpful both for the classes I teach and the sermons I deliver,” she said.
Singer joined Riverside’s Temple Beth El in February 2008. She has been actively engaged in social justice work locally, serving as a member of the Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) Clergy Caucus and as a commissioner for the city of Riverside’s Human Relations Commission. Prior to her arrival, Singer organized two social justice conferences, one in the Bay Area in November 2005 and one in Los Angeles in November 2007. The purpose of the conferences was to engage synagogues and churches in advocacy and policy work on social issues.
After graduating from Hebrew Union College, Singer served at Temple Sinai in Oakland for three years. Between 2006 and 2008 she served as director of the Introduction to Judaism program for the Pacific Southwest Council of the Union for Reform Judaism, and as coordinator of a leadership initiative at HUC’s Los Angeles campus.
She is a native of New York City, location of her home synagogue, Temple Emanuel. Singer holds three master’s degrees; a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters and a Master of Arts in Judaic Studies from Hebrew Union College and a masters in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University