Rabbi Cookie Lea Olshein received a Bachelor’s of Business Administration degree (International Business) from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., followed by a Juris Doctorate degree from California Western School of Law in San Diego, California, at the age of 23. While practicing law (primarily civil litigation) in Las Vegas, Nevada, Rabbi Olshein was actively involved in creating and administering Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses for attorneys and became the youngest person ever to rise to the role of Chairperson of the State Bar of Nevada’s CLE Committee. An active member of her home congregation, Congregation Ner Tamid, she created a young adult program serving the needs of those ages 25-39; served as a Vice President of her congregation’s Board of Trustees; volunteered with the Sisterhood; and helped create a lay-led Shabbat morning minyan. During this time, she also created and led a successful singles’ program in partnership with the Jewish Community Center and volunteered with Jewish Family Services.
After completing her first year of rabbinical studies in Jerusalem at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), Rabbi Olshein continued her education at the Los Angeles campus, serving for two years as Student Rabbi of Congregation Havurim in Temecula, California, followed by two years as Congregation Ner Tamid’s academic year Rabbinic Intern (she also completed four full-time summer internships there). As a fifth-year student, Rabbi Olshein further completed a second year-long Rabbinic Internship at the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. In May of 2006, Rabbi Olshein received a Master’s of Arts in Hebrew Letters degree from HUC-JIR, at which time she also received the Cantor William Sharlin Award for Excellence in Liturgy. After completing her rabbinic thesis on the topic of Synagogue Transformation and Change Issues (with a focus on the use and effects of technology in worship), she was ordained as a Rabbi by HUC-JIR in May of 2008.
Rabbi Olshein came to Temple Israel from Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, Texas, where she shared all pulpit and life cycle responsibilities with the Senior Rabbi. In the greater Austin Jewish community, Rabbi Olshein initiated a partnership with Jewish Family Services to create and co-facilitate a community-wide Jewish Chronic Illness/Cancer Support Group. She was actively involved with the Austin Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and participated in a variety of social action, arts and music, and multi-faith activities in the community through iACT (Interfaith Action of Central Texas) and other organizations.
Rabbi Olshein’s professional passions include teaching adult education, organizing and leading congregational Jewish music, bringing awareness to local and international social justice issues through her work with American Jewish World Service and other organizations, and facilitating workshops on spirituality in everyday life. Her own “Jewish journey” was featured in the URJ’s Reform Judaism magazine (https://reformjudaismmag.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=1267).
In her spare time, Rabbi Olshein enjoys crocheting handmade kippot (one of her kippot is currently on display in the Jewish Museum of Berlin); taking gourmet cooking classes and planning vacations all over the world. In recent years, she has spent her vacation time as an official Chaplain for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, as the Rabbi on a cruise ship in the Caribbean for Passover, and as a guest Rabbi in Auckland, New Zealand.
Rabbi Olshein believes that we create the meaningful spiritual communities we seek to join through sharing our experiences and stories of change … she hopes that you will introduce yourself and share a part of your journey with her.