WEDNESDAY WISDOM: History and the challenge of remembering

Rabbi and cantor Angela Buchdahl commemorated Yom HaShoah with a song for her congregation in 2014 (Holocaust Remembrance Day is May 4th this year). She sang about a “history that has no words” and the challenge of remembering “too many names to name, numbers too hard to handle.” Commemorating those who perished in the Holocaust is a moral responsibility for Jewish Americans, who like Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, remember their heritage during May.

[Central Synagogue] Remember: A Song for Yom HaShoah

Rabbi Buchdahl is the first woman to become both rabbi and cantor, as well as the first Asian American to be ordained a rabbi. Buchdahl’s Jewish American father and Korean mother raised her Jewish in Tacoma, Washington. Buchdahl went to Yale where she majored in Religious Studies. She then attended Hebrew Union College for her cantorial and rabbinical studies.

Since 2014, Rabbi Buchdahl has served the Central Synagogue in New York as its Senior Rabbi. She has also led prayers during Hanukkah at the White House after being  invited by President Barack Obama.

The following videos show her installation at Central Synagogue and her Passover message about the persistence of slavery in the world.

[Central Synagogue] Installation of Rabbi Buchdahl: Rabbi Angela Buchdahl
[Central Synagogue] Passover: Modern Slavery, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl

Learn more:

  • [White House] Presidential Proclamation — Jewish American Heritage Month, 2016: “We cannot pay proper respect to the legacy of Jewish Americans without also reflecting on the rise of anti-Semitism in many parts of the world, and in remembering the lessons of the Holocaust, we recognize the imperative need to root out prejudice. Subjecting men, women, and children to persecution on the basis of their ancestry and faith, the scourge of anti-Semitism demands that we declare through action and solidarity that an attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths.” Read more
  • [NPR] Asian-American Rabbi Changes The Face Of Judaism: “I feel so fortunate. I think Central Synagogue is on the forefront of what is the most exciting movement in Judaism, which is radically open and hospitable and diverse and inclusive and innovative.” Read more
  • [MyJewishLearning] Funny, You Don’t Look Jewish: “One year my mother put kimchee, a spicy, pickled cabbage condiment, on our seder plate. My Korean mother thought it was a reasonable substitution since both kimchee and horseradish elicit a similar sting in the mouth, the same clearing of the nostrils. She also liked kimchee on gefilte fish and matza. “Kimchee just like maror, but better,” she said. I resigned myself to the fact that we were never going to be a “normal” Jewish family.” Read more
  • [New York Times 7.23.2003] Defining Judaism, a Rabbi of Many Firsts: “When she was 5, Rabbi Buchdahl’s family moved to Tacoma, Wash. She promptly began attending her father’s synagogue, which her father’s grandparents had helped found a century earlier. It was a small close-knit Jewish community, and Rabbi Buchdahl said she felt that she belonged immediately.”My rabbi was very much accepting of me and my family,” she said. “He never brought up the idea that I would need a conversion or that I was somehow less Jewish than anyone else.” Read more

Photo credit: Screenshot from [Central Synagogue / YouTube] Remember: A Song for Yom HaShoah


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