Temple Sinai welcomes Rabbi Ilana Symons

Saratoga’s newest Reform Jewish Rabbi

Temple Sinai welcomes Rabbi Ilana Symons to lead the congregation as its new rabbi beginning in July 2024.

Rabbi Ilana is a Monroeville, Penn., native, and was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on Sunday, May 5.

“Baruchot haba-ot is the traditional Hebrew phrase of welcome; literally, it means blessed is the one who has come, said Beth Sabo Novik, President of the Temple Sinai Board of Trustees.

“Please join me, then, in extending a warm baruchot haba-ot to Ilana Symons as we welcome her as the newly appointed permanent rabbi for Temple Sinai.”

The daughter of two rabbis, Ilana received her BA from New York University, where she majored in Philosophy, with double minors in Multifaith and Spiritual Leadership and Hebrew and Judaic Studies.

Her studies intertwined the two major threads in her life, art and Judaism, she said.

“This is the task of the rabbi and the artist,” Symons said in a Jewish Chronicle news article announcing her new position in Saratoga Springs. “Transform the mundane into the holy.”

Ilana follows co-Rabbis Jonathan Rubenstein and Linda Motzkin, who served for 36 years as spiritual leaders in Saratoga Springs following their retirement at the end of December 2022.

“Temple Sinai is thrilled to be welcoming Rabbi Ilana,” Sabo Novik said. “She feels so right for us. Rabbi Ilana has a warmhearted intelligence that fits Temple Sinai’s past and I’m confident she will guide us well into the future. Her interest in the relationship between Judaism and art is reminiscent of Rabbi Linda and her warm-heartedness and sense of humor is a lot like Rabbi Jonathan. We are so blessed to have found her.”

Rabbi David Katz served as the Temple Sinai interim rabbi during the past year as the congregation searched for its new permanent rabbi.

“Rabbi Katz was a great interim Rabbi,” Sabo Novik said. “He helped teach us who we are and showed us different ways of being an organization that effectively serves its congregation. He modeled core Jewish values, always calling on the sick and bereaved, was quick to apologize and worked hard for Temple Sinai.”

Symons will begin leading religious services at Temple Sinai beginning the Shabbat of July 5-6.

“She was clearly the right match for us…and the congregation unanimously agreed,” Sabo Novik said.

“I am beyond thrilled to join the Temple Sinai community in July,” Symons said in a message to the congregation. “I cannot wait to get to know each of you and partner together in this sacred work.”

Rabbi Ilana’s arrival marks the end of the one-year search committee efforts to identify a new permanent rabbi, Sabo Novik explained.

“We extend a heartfelt todah rabba to the members of the Search Committee for their dedication, hard work, and thoughtfulness (including chair, Michael Marx, and members Barry Bader, Caroline Bobick, Julie Fink-Sullivan, Ben Gordon, Sid Hellman, Beth Novik, David Watsky, and Sandy Welter, and past committee members Leslie Hurst and Jerry Silverman), she said.”