Central Synagogue Names First Asian-American Head Rabbi

Angela Buchdahl Will Lead 2,400 Family Shul

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 Hody Nemes

Published December 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Angela Warnick Buchdahl was named Senior Rabbi of Manhattan’s Central Synagogue last night in a unanimous vote by the synagogue’s Board of Trustees, making her the first Asian-American leader of one of the nation’s largest Reform synagogues. Buchdahl currently serves as the synagogue’s Senior Cantor and will succeed Senior Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, who announced his retirement in March after leading the synagogue for 23 years.

“The Committee and the Board believe wholeheartedly that Rabbi Buchdahl is the right person to lead Central forward,” said David Edelson, the synagogue’s president, in a letter to the congregation. “We should all be proud that our next Senior Rabbi will be one of our own.” Buchdahl was the first woman to receive ordination as both a rabbi and a cantor. She is also the first Asian-American to hold both positions.

Born in South Korea in 1972 to an American Jewish father and a Korean Buddhist Mother, Buchdahl represents a new, diverse face of American Jewry, as described in a recent profile by the Forward. Buchdahl’s parents moved the family from South Korea to Tacoma, Washington, when their daughter was four years old, and joined Tacoma’s Temple Beth El, where Buchdahl discovered an early affinity for Jewish music and education.

Buchdahl was involved in campus Jewish life and studied religion at Yale University, where she met her future husband, Jacob Buchdahl. She received her ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2001.

“Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl is one of the most inspiring religious leaders you will ever meet,” wrote Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, after learning of her appointment. “All of our Movement will be touched by her extraordinary spiritual gifts.”

Though she is stepping down from her cantorial position, Buchdahl will continue to sing as the congregation’s senior rabbi. “She intends to draw on the strengths of her rabbinic and cantorial skills to inform and enrich how she leads the congregation,” Edelson wrote.


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!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • 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.