LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - She might look like your typical 20-something-year-old, but Southwest Louisiana native Rebekah Goldman is doing something few young people do these days.
Goldman is pursuing her longtime dream of becoming a rabbi.
"There's been a lot of things that have lead me down this path," explains Goldman. "My parents making sure that we were involved in Jewish life…them sending us to camp was a huge part of it."
While most rabbis are still men, Goldman says things are quickly changing.
"Two-thirds of my class is female, so there are more and more of us," said Goldman.
But that's not what makes Goldman's story so special.
She's just made history for Temple Sinai, the only Jewish congregation in the area.
By attending Hebrew College in Boston, she has become Southwest Louisiana's first ever rabbinic candidate, a task more than 100 years in the making.
But Goldman is quick to caution.
"I'm not successful yet. I've just made it to school," she says. "Plenty of people make it to school. I've got to succeed now."
If her past is any indication, succeeding shouldn't be a problem for Goldman.
She graduated from LSU with a degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies in 2007. She's also worked at a number of Judaism camps and has even taught high school in Israel.
Now when she's able, she returns home to lead services at Temple Sinai in Lake Charles.
"It's so overwhelming to have this support from this community. I always knew that I would have their support because they've seen me grow up," said Goldman. "They've raised me here. So I've always knew that they would stand behind me no matter what I did, but it feels really wonderful to be able to come back here and use them as my test congregation."
Goldman said the best advice she has ever received was actually not to be a rabbi.
"Because it's emotionally taxing to constantly be providing support for other people," said Goldman. "Unfortunately, I couldn't be anything else. This is always what I've wanted to be."
Goldman expects to complete her studies at Hebrew College in five years.
She says no matter where life takes her, Southwest Louisiana will always be home.
"No matter where I move in the world, this is where I'm from and this is where my heart will always be," said Goldman.