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Rabbi Angela Buchdahl To Lead Central Synagogue

First Asian-American rabbi was also first woman to be ordained both cantor and rabbi.

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Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl has been selected to succeed Rabbi Peter Rubinstein as spiritual leader of Manhattan's Central Synagogue, the congregation's board announced on Thursday.

Pending approval of the board's recommendation at a Jan. 7 membership meeting, she would assume the pulpit on July 1. She would be the first woman to lead the 2,100-family Reform congregation in its 174-year history.

“I am honored by the Board’s recommendation to the congregation for its approval next month," said Rabbi Buchdahl in a statement emailed to The Jewish Week by the synagogue. "Our senior rabbi transition will not occur until July 1, 2014, so I am wholly focused on continuing to serve our community as senior cantor at this time. Beyond that I have no further comment.”

Rabbi Buchdahl has been the congregation's senior cantor but has also carried out rabbinic duties. Although she will continue to sing during some services, the congregation will search for a new senior cantor.

"This is one of the most prominent congregations in the world, and Rabbi Cantor Angela Buchdal is one of the most remarkable and inspiring religious leaders in our world," said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the movement's congregational arm.

Rabbi Buchdal is the movement's most prominent leader who is both a rabbi and a cantor, Rabbi Jacobs said in an interview with The Jewish Week. She will join him in leading the Shabbat service at the movement's Biennial meeting in San Diego, which starts on Dec. 11.

"The Committee and the Board believe wholeheartedly that Rabbi Buchdahl is the right person to lead Central forward," David B. Edelson, the congregation president, said in a statement posted on the congregation website.

"She believes music is an integral part of how she leads a worship experience," wrote Edelson. "That said, Rabbi Buchdahl will also work alongside a new senior cantor and Cantor [Julia] Katz to embed music even more deeply into the fabric of Central. In order to select the absolute best person for Senior Cantor, we may be comfortable extending the search we will launch to include candidates who might not start until July 2015."

She has been featured multiple times in the Newsweek/Daily Beast annual list of 50 Most Influential American Rabbis.

Born in Seoul, South Korea in 1972 to an American-Jewish father and Korean-Buddhist mother, Buchdahl grew up in Tacoma, Wash., and was raised Jewish.

"Her multiple backgrounds can enhance our Jewish life in this contemporary world that we live in," Rabbi Jacobs said, adding that Rabbi Buchdal grew up in the Reform movement, spending her summers at its summer camps.

Rabbi Rubinstein, in the synagoue's statement, said he had remained outside the process during the search process, believing it was the "sacred responsibility" of lay leadership.

"Now that the Committee and Board have recommended Rabbi Buchdahl, I can say that I enthusiastically endorse her selection and I joyfully look forward to her becoming Central’s next senior rabbi.”

The change comes as another large, historic Manhattan Reform congregation also changes leaders. Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson will be installed at Temple Emanu-el this Shabbat.

JTA and Helen Chernikoff contributed to this report.


Last Update:

09/25/2015 - 11:30
Central Synagogue, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Rabbi Peter Rubenstein
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I think some of the statements I read are horrible." Love thy neighbor as thyself" is certainly not seen here!What I think is important is one's excellence in doing the job. Watching this rabbi, I saw the connecting to her peers and congregants. Also, often those who convert are better Jews than those born to a Jewish mother.
This rabbi was born to her parents and was considered Jewish by them. Then, she sought a "journey"of a religious life.It is difficult enough for Caucasion women--never mind an Asian women. Think what she had to go through to even become a Cantor. I applaud her, and think she is awesome!! I think her congregation is so lucky to have her, and should thank G-d!

Though it ought not to have been required Rabbi Buchdahl "converted" from, as far as I can tell, Jew to Jew who even the Orthodox could accept (though, of course, they won't). The self-appointed who think they can establish the Law (they probably believe they delivered the tablets to Moses),are entitled to their views, of course, but the rest of us should not have to listen to them, much less accept their bleatings as The Word. As Rabbi Jacobs said in San Diego in December "The time is long overdue for us to stop using Orthodox Jewish practice as the baseline against which we define our own Jewish practice. We can affirm the authenticity of other Jewish practices without conceding Jewish authenticity to them alone. Our Judaism is appealing to everyone, those from more traditional backgrounds, no Jewish backgrounds, Jews by religion, Jews by culture, and Jews by affinity. We will amply nourish all who are hungry for meaning...Our Judaism is for everyone. Our Judaism is inclusive, egalitarian, intellectually rigorous, joyful, passionate, spiritual, pluralistic, constantly evolving and relevant. Soul elevating spiritual practice, life-altering Torah study, courageous practice of tikkun olam, loving care for our community, especially the most vulnerable--that's what we are. Just look at this Biennial if you want to see Judaism that is all of the above and more. I believe with the very fiber of my being that young Jews are hungry, but not for a Judaism frozen in a distant time, no matter how loving and warm the purveyors - including Chabad, in particular - might be."

What can be said about a synagogue that appoints a Rabbi that is not even Jewish. The so called Rabbi is only considered Jewish by liberal US reform standards but in the rest of the jewish work is a gentile. Without even a formal reform conversion the Rabbi is not even able to identify as Jewish in Israel.

The Central Synagogue could not have chosen a better representative for Rabbi. Anything goes with the reformers: women rabbis; atheist rabbis; gay rabbis; goy rabbis. But as a show of inclusiveness, the Rabbi Avi Weiss/Rabbi Asher Lopatin Yeshivat Chovevei Torah will also include these types with their oich mir a rabbis.

I don't care what ethnicity she is. She's not even Jewish according to Jewish law, so what does that say about the state of the Reform movement?

1. It is sad, yet revealing, that the reform movement has selected as its "Most Important Rabbi" an individual who is not even a halachic jew.

2. We know what the gemarra says about Cantors.

Rabbi Angela was my "personal angel" because thanks to her I started the process of conversion. I fearfully expressed my desire to her and her response was an immediate "Yes, you can convert." I eventually studied with one of her colleagues, Rabbi Mark Sameth, but Rabbi Angela was my first teacher and my guide. I have deep gratitude and admiration for her and wish her all the best in this new position.

This is the sort of thing the Maccabees fought and won against.
This includes all the other people in the groups she represents.
America the land of the "free".

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