Bio: Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill

Born in Brooklyn and raised in New York suburbs, Ellen was graduated at 19 from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA, and went on to earn a master’s degree from Stanford University. She then moved to Los Angeles and worked a number of editorial jobs in Los Angeles and New York before deciding to become a schoolteacher. While teaching English in Los Angeles Unified School District, Ellen wrote and published her first two books: No Big Deal, a novel for middle-school kids, and Embracing the Stranger: Intermarriage and the Future of the American Jewish Community. In 1998, she put together her book The Jewish Woman’s Book of Wisdom and decided to pursue a career in Jewish professional life.

Ellen began to study synagogue music seriously, taking classes in nusach, repertoire, voice, harmony, music theory, and conducting, and in May 2003, she earned a master’s degree in Judaic studies at the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, acquiring a solid foundation in Bible, rabbinics, Jewish history, and Jewish philosophy. In June 2006, Ellen completed the rigorous independent-study process sponsored by the American Conference of Cantors and Hebrew Union College’s School of Sacred Music to be certified as a cantor.

Ellen served Temple Ner Tamid in Downey, CA, as cantor for four years, also working as a b’nai mitzvah tutor and a freelance writer. In 2009, Ellen joined the student body at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, PA, becoming a full-time rabbinical student while continuing to work as a b’nai mitzvah tutor and officiant at weddings and funerals, adding experience as a nursing home and hospital chaplain.

After ordination in June 2014, Ellen decided to move to the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia, where her husband grew up, to reach out to unaffiliated Jews and spiritual seekers with the joyous, progressive approach to Judaism she has experienced all her life and was privileged to develop in seminary. She lives in Virginia Beach, VA, with her husband, Spencer Gill, and their dogs, Cookie and Molly II. Ellen is spiritual leader of Tidewater Chavurah, a small “congregation without walls” based in Virginia Beach.

You can find out more about Ellen at her website,