Emma Kippley-Ogman joins a select group on Monday, when she officially starts her new job as the first assistant rabbi at Beth Jacob synagogue.

With her arrival, the Mendota Heights synagogue will be the only Conservative congregation in the Twin Cities with a woman as a pulpit rabbi. She'll also be one of only half a dozen female pulpit rabbis in Minnesota. Pulpit rabbis sermonize, counsel followers and perform other pastoral activities.

"Our congregation, its culture is to celebrate the health that comes from diversity in all sorts of ways," said Morris J. Allen, Beth Jacob's rabbi for nearly 27 years. "At the end of the day, we wanted to hire who was best."

Kippley-Ogman, 31, attended the synagogue while she was in junior high and high school. She took on a leadership role, reading from the Torah and getting involved in youth-related activities. Beth Jacob has close to 400 households, Allen said.

She received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College in Newton, Mass., and holds a bachelor's degree in history and science from Harvard. For the past two years she's served as assistant rabbi at Congregation Kehillath Israel in the Boston area.

Kippley-Ogman says she's honored to be back at Beth Jacob and looks forward to living in the Twin Cities again.

"The Jewish community in the Twin Cities is where I want to invest my lifework," she said. "So I was incredibly excited when I saw Beth Jacob was interested in hiring an assistant rabbi. It's a community that really values living a serious Jewish life and living a Jewish life that is seriously engaged in the world."

Allen, 57, is one of the country's most prominent rabbis and has worked to ensure kosher food is produced in ways consistent with ethical standards of Judaism. He says he has a long-term contract with the congregation and no intention of leaving anytime soon. But having an assistant will help the congregation and "bring in yet another rabbinic voice into the community."

Rose French 612-673-4352