New Rabbi at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue ‘a Pioneer’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States, Women on 2014-01-28 18:44Z by Steven

New Rabbi at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue ‘a Pioneer’

The Wall Street Journal

Sophia Hollander

Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl Is Daughter of a Korean Buddhist Immigrant and an American Jew

Growing up as the daughter of a Korean Buddhist immigrant and an American Jew in Tacoma, Wash., Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl said some family members always wondered: Could she ever be fully accepted as a Jew?

Any lingering doubts were eliminated last week when the congregation of Midtown’s historic Central Synagogue voted her to succeed Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, 71, when he retires later this year. Her appointment will take effect July 1.

Rabbi Buchdahl, who is 41, will become one of only a few women—and likely the only Asian-American—leading a major U.S. synagogue. Central Synagogue boasts 100 full-time employees and an endowment that exceeds $30 million.

“She really is a pioneer,” said Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson, president of the Wexner Foundation, which develops Jewish leaders in North America and Israel. “She represents a new generation of women.” According to the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the largest rabbinical organization in North America, about 30% of Reform-movement rabbis are women.

Her appointment comes at a critical moment for American Judaism. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that the number of U.S. adults identifying as Jewish has dropped by half since the late 1950s. Fewer than a third of Jewish adults said they belonged to a synagogue, temple or other congregation…

…In addition to her unusual cultural heritage, Rabbi Buchdahl has been quick to blur other lines. According to the Central Conference of American Rabbis, she is one of only about a dozen people in the U.S. and Canada ordained as both a rabbi and a cantor

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Nation’s First Asian American Rabbi Inspires Social Change

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Religion, United States, Women on 2013-01-11 04:24Z by Steven

Nation’s First Asian American Rabbi Inspires Social Change

KoreAm: The Korean American Experience

Rebecca U. Cho

Unorthodox Rabbi

As a child, Angela Buchdahl stood out as the lone Asian face in the synagogue and at Jewish camps. Today, she holds the distinction of being the nation’s first Asian American rabbi and is helping to redefine what it means to be Jewish.

On Friday nights at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue, a crowd of 600 gathers for service, voices unifying in centuries-old songs of worship. Leading the attendees in fluent Hebrew, her passion-laden voice soaring to the tops of the temple, is Korean American Angela Buchdahl.
A decade ago, Buchdahl shook up the ranks of Jewish leadership in the U.S. by becoming the country’s first Asian American rabbi. She is “emblematic of the changing face of Judaism,” declared an article in Newsweek, which named the biracial 39-year-old to its 2011 list of 50 Most Influential Rabbis. Not only is she helping to redefine what it means to be Jewish, she is at the forefront of a movement among Reform Jews to inspire social change and push for greater involvement in community organizing.
Her leadership and vision seem to have connected with Jews around the world. Since her arrival five years ago to the prominent New York synagogue as cantor, or song leader, attendance on Friday nights has doubled. Thousands more worldwide recently listened in on a live web stream of services for the High Holy Days

…The need to connect to a Jewish community is close to Buchdahl’ s heart. Born Angela Lee Warnick to a Korean Buddhist mother and a Jewish American father, she spent much of her childhood with a perpetual sense of being “the only one.”
Buchdahl’ s parents met and married in South Korea, where her father had been visiting as a civil engineer in the ROTC program and her mother was studying English literature at Yonsei University. After the family relocated to the U.S. when Buchdahl was 5 years old, she and her sister grew up as the lone Jewish kids in a large Korean American community in Tacoma, Wash. At the same time, in the synagogue and Jewish camps, she stood out as the only Asian face.
“My ‘Koreanness’ wasn’t anything I could escape because it was on my face,” says Buchdahl. Her younger sister, on the other hand, was often mistaken for being Hispanic…

…She sees her bicultural heritage reflected in the diverse Jewish community in New York and at Central Synagogue, which counts at least a dozen Asian-Jewish families. Racial diversity has been on the upswing, with about 20 percent of the 6.1 million Jews in America being of African, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern or mixed-race descent, compared to prior estimates of 10 to 14 percent, according to a 2005 book by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research…

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Multiracial Jews Moving Beyond Isolation

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2012-06-13 12:25Z by Steven

Multiracial Jews Moving Beyond Isolation

The Jewish Week

Julie Wiener, Associate Editor

Now 12 percent of the community, racially diverse Jewish households making their way into mainstream — but still less ‘engaged’ than others.

When Rabbi/Cantor Angela Buchdahl was growing up — the daughter of a white Jewish father and a Korean-American mother — she and her sister “always felt like the ‘only ones’” that were non-white in Jewish settings.

Today, her three children attend the Abraham Joshua Heschel School, and each is in a class with at least one other mixed-race Asian. “And there are other races as well,” she noted.

Meanwhile at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue, where Buchdahl is a member of the clergy, there are at least 20 families with Jews of color, not counting Sephardic or Mizrachi Jews…

…Rabbi/Cantor Buchdahl’s observations are reflected in the comprehensive UJA-Federation of New York population study released this week. The first Jewish population study to ask about race, it finds that approximately 12 percent — or 87,000 — of New York Jewish households are “multiracial or nonwhite.”

This category includes households in which survey respondents were both Jewish and black, Hispanic, Asian or biracial, or in which white Jewish respondents reported that their household is bi- or multiracial. “As a group they are divided almost equally among four groups: Hispanic respondents, Black respondents, white respondents with biracial households, and biracial respondents, with small numbers of others (for example, Asian-American respondents),” the study reports.

In short, the category encompasses a wide range of profiles — among them interracial couples and their children, adult children of interracial couples, white couples with non-white adopted children and non-whites who were either born Jewish or converted to Judaism. And it is not clear how many families fit each profile…

…But there is no typical multiracial Jewish family: the category represents a mix of races and ethnicities, as well as a wide range of family and national backgrounds everywhere on the spectrum of Jewish observance.

“To call everyone ‘Jews of color’ is really a disservice because there’s so much variation,” said Diane Tobin, director of Be’chol Lashon, a San Francisco-based group that conducts research and offers various programs throughout the United States, including an overnight summer camp for multiracial Jewish children. “Between intermarriage, conversion and adoption, there’s so many different paths and ways people are identifying as being Jews.”…

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