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 3 of 5)

In an email to the Forward, Warnick recalled that his daughter taught elementary school students Jewish songs and music throughout her high school years. Eventually, during her summers off from Yale University, Buchdahl became the head song leader at Camp Swig, a Reform camp in Saratoga, Calif.

In his email, Warnick stressed the many similarities he found between the culture he encountered in Korea and the hometown and Jewish community to which he returned. In both, he wrote, “I saw a similar strength, belief and hope, coupled with a deep appreciation for tradition.” In Asia, he added, “I married a Korean woman, who shared in these strengths.”

Seen from a wide-angle view today, it appears that Buchdahl’s parents were far from atypical. A recent two-year study by sociologists Noah Leavitt and Helen Kim suggests that, overwhelmingly, Asian-Jewish couples today are raising their children as Jews. That compares with the finding of the 2001 National Jewish Population Survey that about “one-third of the children in households where only one of the two spouses is Jewish are being raised Jewish and/or with a Jewish identity.”

Still, Buchdahl has written movingly of her struggle with her identity during her youth notwithstanding the support she received in Tacoma.

“Internal questions of authenticity loomed over my Jewish identity throughout my adolescence into early adulthood, as I sought to integrate my Jewish, Korean, and secular American identities,” Buchdahl wrote in the publication Sh’ma Journal in 2003. Buchdahl said there were times she believed she could never be “fully Jewish.”

She told the Seattle Jewish Transcript that her first transformative Jewish experience came during a Bronfman Youth Fellowship trip to Israel in 1989.

On her trip, she encountered “Jews who didn’t think I was a Jew.” On the streets of Israel, children would yell at her or question her about the meaning of the Star of David necklace she wore.


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!
  • Kosovo's centuries-old Jewish community is down to a few dozen. In a nation where the population is 90% Muslim, they are proud their past — and wonder why Israel won't recognize their state. http://jd.fo/h4wK0
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • 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.