Rabbi Heather writes: “It is not one’s sexual orientation or how often a person shows up at synagogue services or politics or socioeconomic status or clothing that defines a Jew.”
Two pieces of great news bookended 2014 in the broader Jewish world: At the beginning of this year, I learned that Rabbi/Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl would be named Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue in New York City. She is the first Korean-American rabbi/cantor, speaks often about growing up in an interfaith family, and she brings much spiritual uplift to every ritual she leads. My wife, Melissa and I have known her since our days in New York City- and she even served on the Beit Din that was responsible for Melissa’s conversion in 2008. As if this wasn’t enough, toward the end of the year, I learned that she led a Hanukkiah lighting ceremony at the White House for President Barack Obama and many distinguished Jewish professionals. Her remarks included this gem: that the founding fathers might never have imagined, “a female Asian-American rabbi lighting the menorah in 2014 at the White House for an African-American president. I think they’d be surprised.” This type of awareness, reminds us that no one ethnicity or mold determines Jewish status. It is not one’s sexual orientation or how often a person shows up at synagogue services or politics or socioeconomic status or clothing that defines a Jew. Rather, it is a person’s self understanding and what a person’s heart brings to the Jewish enterprise that determines Jewish identity. Standing outside of stereotypes, and boldly declaring so, she makes room for all who want to experience and participate Jewish life to do so. This is a most admirable quality. In 2015, along these lines, I hope to continue to encourage anyone interested in Judaism to experience and enhance the Jewish endeavor no matter how far afield they feel of the typical Jewish stereotype.
In the community of Beth Chayim Chadashim, I received great news practically every time I set foot in the building. The joys of baby namings, first Hebrew words learned, news of medaling in national sports competitions and professional successes were celebrated throughout the community. These moments uplifted everyone, even those who had difficult years through divorce, illness, death, and professional setbacks. This is what community brings. I feel so much hope and joy for the upcoming secular new year of 2015, and am here for those who would like to share any kind of news. firstname.lastname@example.org