Angela Buchdahl, First Asian-American Rabbi, Vies for Role at Central Synagogue

Rabbi and Cantor Reflects Growing Diversity of Jewry

Pulpit Pioneer: Angela Buchdahl, who is of Korean and Ashkenazi descent symbolizes a new, more diverse Reform Movement.
courtesy of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Pulpit Pioneer: Angela Buchdahl, who is of Korean and Ashkenazi descent symbolizes a new, more diverse Reform Movement.

By Seth Berkman

Published August 12, 2013, issue of August 16, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 5)

Starting in 1983, as intermarriage advanced steadily among its members, Reform Judaism conferred a “presumption of Jewish descent” on those with one Jewish parent, whether it was a father or a mother. The one condition to this recognition was that it be established “through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith,” according to the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

In many ways, Buchdahl represents the flowering of this revolution in Judaism, and symbolizes a kind of coming of age of its children.

Tacoma, Wash., the hometown of the family of Buchdahl’s father going back three generations, was the city Buchdahl ended up growing up in when her father returned to the United States from South Korea with his new family in tow. It was 1976, and Buchdahl was 4.

At Temple Beth El, the town’s Reform synagogue, which the young family soon joined, “nobody asked who was Jewish and who wasn’t,” recalled Beth Garden, a song leader at the congregation during Buchdahl’s time there.

“I knew people who had converted and those who hadn’t, and they were welcomed no matter what,” said Garden, who also gave Buchdahl flute lessons. “If they showed up, that was the most important thing.”

Buchdahl’s father, Fred Warnick, said he was originally sent to South Korea to fulfill a ROTC commitment and was working as a civil engineer there when he met his future wife. On his return to Tacoma, Warnick served on the synagogue’s buildings and grounds committee, according to Garden’s mother, Joan Garden, the synagogue’s education director at the time.

Joan Garden added that she remembered seeing Buchdahl’s mother around the Tacoma synagogue with her family just as often.

“Her mother allowed her and her sister to do all the Jewish things. [Angela] was always a leader of her group.”

That acceptance allowed Buchdahl to thrive in Tacoma, where she became a leader in school and within the synagogue’s youth programs.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.