Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton
Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton is a Montreal-born teacher, singer and spiritual leader whose many talents have taken her across the boundaries of geography and faith.
Her pre-rabbinic education, in women’s studies, music and voice, was done across Canada and in Europe and led to a successful operatic career — highlighted by a performance for Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1986. She got an early taste of Jewish spiritual work as cantor of Temple Emanuel in Toronto and as creator of Kol Nashim, an ensemble of female cantors. The experience kindled a desire for more, so she moved to Philadelphia in 1989 to become a rabbi.
During her years at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, she cultivated a deep commitment to spiritually motivated social action, interfaith and Jewish inter-denominational relations, and the intersection of music and liturgy. She served many congregations as a visiting cantor and student rabbi, worked with the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Center for Learning and Leadership, and was a founder of a project now called Kolot: The Center for Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies, as well as founder of the RRC student choir.
Her rabbinic ordination and Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters came in 1996. After serving as chaplain for the Philadelphia Geriatric Center and as an adjunct instructor with the RRC, Rabbi Bolton was hired to lead Beit Tikvah, a Reconstructionist congregation in Baltimore, in 1999. She worked there for more than 12 years, a period that included experiences with conflict resolution, holocaust education, at-risk children in Ghana, and the founding of a multifaith non-profit group that provided shelter and support for homeless families. While in Baltimore, she also worked with the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation as creator/director of the Music and Liturgy Project, and as a rabbinic faculty member at Camp JRF.
Her arrival in Ottawa, in August 2013, was a coming home of sorts, and made history on many levels: she is the first permanent rabbi of Or Haneshamah, which was lay- and student-led for 25 years; she is Ottawa’s first female congregational rabbi; and she is the city’s first openly gay rabbi. In the short time she has been here, she has energized Or Haneshamah members with her passion and has strengthened the relationship between the Reconstructionist congregation and the city’s broader Jewish community.
Rabbi Bolton is a sought-after speaker and teacher on topics including interfaith dialogue, GLBTQ-faith issues and transforming synagogue liturgy. She is a parent of two teenagers — her most treasured teachers — who have inherited her passion for music, dance, theatre and global social justice.