Alana Joblin Ain, wife of Rabbi Dan Ain, is a mother, writer, teacher and co-founder of Because Jewish. Take a moment to meet Beth Sholom’s new Rebbetzin.
What is the correct pronunciation of your name?
Alana rhymes with banana.
You are an accomplished writer. Tell us a little bit about your background and the subjects you like to explore in your writing.
I've been writing for as long as I can remember; I was a shy kid, but I kept diaries, journals -- When we packed for this move I realize how far back they dated -- decades.
I became interested in poetry at a young age. For my Bat Mitzvah speech I wrote a rhyming poem, and my brother helped me fashion the line-breaks so the poem was in the shape of a kiddish cup -- I should have realized then that I was destined for the role of Rebbetzin!
I studied English and Religion at Oberlin College as an undergraduate, and later earned my MFA in poetry at Hunter College in Manhattan where I taught undergrad creative writing for six years.
I write about family, faith, experiences that I'm trying to make sense of in the world - things that I struggle with, things that leave me awed.
When Dan and I were first set up on a blind date it struck me how we were exploring the same topics -- through poems and rabbinic texts.
Also, my favorite bookstore in the country is City Lights, right here in San Francisco!
You co-founded Because Jewish with Rabbi Ain. What was you role at Because Jewish?
Anything involving language -- so pretty much everything! I worked on all of our communications and I kept a column on our site Ask the Rebbeztin -- which was born out of a role that came naturally to me. For years, friends had been approaching me for advice; I'd be the one to pen their resignation letters or break up-scripts, and this grew organically once I married Dan -- people from our community would approach me with all sorts of questions.
I found that as a busy person, in a non-stop city with small kids and running a business, even if I didn't have time for a daily writing practice, I could always find time to answer a letter because it felt like a conversation; if I knew an actual person was at the other end, that felt important to me and I found a way to do it.
In your writing, you have embraced the title of Rebbetzin. What does the word “rebbetzin” mean to you?
I didn't grow up with this term in my Reform Jewish upbringing, but when I discovered there was a title for my role as Dan's wife - in the work that he does, and that we do as a team, I was excited to embrace it.
I recall a conversation with a prominent artist’s wife, when she told me that she wished there had been a special word for her role -- for the partnership she held with her husband in over 50 years of marriage where she supported his creative practice and raised a family and traveled with him throughout the world to show his art. That conversation helped inform my excitement around the term Rebbetzin.
I know that some people view it as old-worldly, but as someone who loves language, I find a great power in claiming this word and imbuing it with the meaning that reflects a role that Dan and I both consider vital. And I can tell that CBS is a community that values a Rebbetzin - so that’s exciting too!