Think you know what a rabbi does with their free time? Think again. Stephanie Crawley is a turtle-owner, Queer Eye fan, Purim hater, and Temple Micah’s new(ish) rabbi!
Meet this radical rabbi taking DC by storm.
Allie: How did you wind up living in DC as a rabbi?
Stephanie: I knew I wanted to be a rabbi since I was maybe 12 years old. I also knew that I didn’t want to go straight from college to rabbinical school. After graduating from undergrad in Cleveland, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do in that time period before rabbinical school, and decided to move to DC and do Jewish work. I wound up working at Temple Micah.
I really loved, and love, how Temple Micah is a place that challenges itself to think differently about what Judaism can look like. Its full of people who are simultaneously brilliant and super humble, and are all very invested in their Jewish life.
After working at Temple Micah for three years, I left to go to rabbinical school. When I was leaving, I worried that I would never find another synagogue that I love as much as I love Temple Micah. But, miraculously, in my fifth year of rabbinical school the Assistant Rabbi position at Temple Micah opened up and I was able to find my way back there.
Allie: Hold on, you wanted to be a rabbi from the time you were 12?!
Stephanie: When I was younger, I knew I liked the idea of doing social work, I liked acting, public speaking, and social justice. A rabbi seemed like it combined all of those things. I knew that becoming a rabbi was the only thing I wanted to do in the world.
Allie: What do you enjoy most about being a rabbi?
Stephanie: I think Judaism gives us such a good answer for how to live our lives with meaning. Particularly right now, it feels like Judaism is everything I need. Judaism reminds me that when it feels like everything is go-go-go, Judaism says stop. When I feel like I’m prioritizing the new, Judaism reminds that what is ancient has real validity. Bringing that countercultural voice to people is something that I really enjoy.
Allie: What has been the most meaningful experience you’ve had as a rabbi thus far?
Stephanie: I used to work in a Jewish addiction and rehab facility called Beit T’Shuvah. While I was there I really saw Judaism save lives. From that, I’ve thought a lot about what we want to save and reclaim in all of our lives, and how can Judaism help with that.
Allie: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Stephanie: There’s so much that I want to do, and learning what my capacity is has been a journey. Also, to be really frank, holding half an hour conversations with 12 year-olds.
Allie: As a rabbi, how do you cope with the rising threat of anti-Semitism we are feeling right now in America?
Stephanie: I do feel a real sense of purpose to figure out how and when to appropriately call out anti-Semitism without alienating Jews. You can’t just publish an op-ed every time there’s anti-Semitism, sometimes you really have to sit with the person who is saying these [anti-Semitic] things and talk to them.
There is a Jewish philosopher Simon Rawidowicz who has an essay called “The Ever Dying People” and I like to keep in mind that every generation has thought they were the last generation of Jews, and they’re not.
Allie: On to lighter things. What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Stephanie: It’s not Purim. I loathe Purim. One Rabbi once said to me you’re either a Yom Kippur Rabbi or a Purim rabbi. I’m definitely a Yom Kippur rabbi. I like this little bubble we create to focus on our community on Yom Kippur, and the catharsis that comes when we’ve done the whole thing together. I think the metaphors are really powerful, and appreciate the concept of t’shuvah (repentance).
I also love Passover. I like that the meal is such a good way of teaching Judaism and encourages children to ask questions. I like that women play an important role in the narrative, and that its one of the Jewish rituals that we’ve found a way to modernize and speak for different movements.
Allie: What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
Stephanie: I have a pet turtle who, for a long time, we thought was a girl turtle named Slowla. We recently found out the turtle is a boy and his new name is Mr. Slow. I think of turtles as puppies with armor.
Allie: What are your favorite ways to relax when you’re not at work?
Stephanie: Normal Netflix and chill, or right now Queer Eye and cry is my new hobby. I also love running and yoga, guitar, singing, and reading.
Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…
Stephanie: We make our city stronger, and highlight the beauty of the diversity of the Jewish world.
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