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Meet Stephanie: Radical Jewish Rabbi of the Week!

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.

stephanie

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.

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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.

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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.

stephanie

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site

Mitzvah Maker – Rabbi Berkman

Tell us about Mesorah, DC.
Mesorah DC is an organization committed to enhancing the Jewish experience of the young professional community in D.C. Over 10 years ago Rabbi Teiltelbaum saw an opportunity to connect with, and serve a community that was not really being serviced at the time. Since then, countless numbers of young professional Jews have participated our events. We take pride in trying to make all Jews from all affiliations and backgrounds feel comfortable and welcome at our programs.

Where can we find you on a Friday night?
On the first and third Friday night of each month Mesorah DC hosts Shabbat services and dinner at the beautiful 6 & I Historic Synagogue. Services start at 6:45 and dinner follows at 8. We often have guest speakers or special events at our dinners and it always guarantees a good time. This week, in fact, is our kick off Shabbat for the season. We are privileged to have world renowned relationship expert Mort Fertel as our guest speaker. I would like to take this opportunity to personally invite all GTJ readers to join. For more info or to RSVP check out our new website www.mesorahdc.org.
How many people come to Mesorah Shabbat dinners?I would say that in an average shabbat, we probably expect about 120 people. If we have a special event or speaker, we can host between 180 and 200 people. This coming shabbat, we are preparing for a big crowd.

What if we are Jewish, but have never been to a Shabbat, can we still come?
Absolutely! That is why we are here. If you are apprehensive or feel funny about just showing up to services, please feel free to contact myself or any of the Mesorah rabbis any time throughout the week. We would be happy to talk to you or meet with you sometime before Shabbat if that would make you feel more comfortable.   What is your personal role in Mesorah DC, and how do you view youre roll in the community in general?I am fortunate to work with a very talented staff along with Rabbis Lefkowitz and Motzen and under the direction of Rabbi Teitelbaum. We very much work as a team, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of that team.  On a personal level, I want to be whatever the community needs. Even outside of regular Mesorah events, I am available throughout the week. If you want to learn, but Cafe Nite doesn’t fit into your schedule, let me know and we can make a different time to study. If you want to start a special class or study group during the day for friends or colleagues, I would be happy to help that happen as well. I am really here for the young professional Jews in DC, committed to making your Jewish experience a positive and enriching one.

How do we contact you (facebook, email, website…)?
I have about ten different email addresses, but the easiest one to reach me at is rabbiberkman@gmail.com. I feel kind of funny giving it out online but it’s on our website anyway so my cell phone is 443-538-3606.

Also I am kind of new to the face book community, so i could use some good friends.

Any parting shots or  piece of wisdom can you share with young professional Jews in DC?
D.C. is a great community with awesome potential. Make the most of your time here and the resources available to you. It’s amazing to thing that I am talking to Gather the Jews, a website focused on the options for Young professional Jews in D.C, that receives over 2000 hits a week. Its been a pleasure to watch GTJ grow to what it is now in really a relatively short time. You guys used to come to Mesorah events as participants now you come as community leaders. It is a testament to your hard work but also to the community you serve. Young professionals in D.C. are hungry for Jewish enrichment. We at Mesorah DC are here to provide what you are looking for. Please join us soon!