Episode 8: Warm, Welcoming, Reform



Ezra Buchdahl

Rabbi-to-be Chayva Lehrman

Rachel Loria



In this episode, meet Ezra, Rachel, and Chayva: 3 Reform Jews who have had experiences of deep welcome within the Reform community for themselves and for their dear ones who are not Jewish. 

This episode comes as a response to the untimely death of Rabbi Aaron Panken, president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. As the Reform movement grieves, this episode highlights the degree to which Reform Judaism has enabled interfaith families to partake fully in Jewish life.

Show Notes

  • 0:00-0:30: Hi! Thanks for listening! I'm Emily Cohen! (If you're reading this, you know that already.)
  • 0:30-1:45 : We meet Rachel, who speaks about her experience growing up at, and now teaching religious school at, Reform Congregation Or Ami in Richmond Virginia.
  • 1:25-3:30: Let's frame the episode. Who are we talking to this month? I explain that following the unexpected death of Rabbi Aaron Panken, the president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, I opted to make an episode highlighting the welcoming nature of Reform communities. 
  • 3:30-5:40: Rachel shares about growing up with a father who is a Holocaust survivor and a mother who converted to Judaism prior to marrying her father. She shares about being raised Jewish while also celebrating holidays with her mother's Christian family. 
  • 5:40-7:45: We meet Ezra, a Baltimore-based son of Reform Rabbi Gustav Buchdahl and father to two college-aged children. He shares about his strong Reform background, the values he's learned from the movement, and his family's continued involvement in Reform communities. 
  • 7:45-9:35: I explain that I have personal connections with each of the guests' episodes but only knew about 1 of the 3 having an interfaith connection. I discuss the notion of some Reform communitites being so welcoming of interfaith families that it's not even known who is from an interfaith background and who is not. 
  • 9:35-11:40: Ezra shares about his experiences of dating a woman who is not Jewish and their experiences of being welcomed (or not) in a variety of communities. 
  • 11:40-12:30: Chayva discusses the welcoming nature of the Reform movement aligning with its value of creating Jewish life in a community that is not primarily Jewish. 
  • 12:30-14:30: We get to know Chayva, a rabbinical student who grew up at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, California. She shares about the empowerment she was offered as a teenager and the learning offered to her by Rabbi Janet Marder. (This is the second time that we've had a guest connected to Beth Am on the podcast. Last fall, I interviewed Greg Marcus for one of our "Rough Cuts!")  
  • 14:30-16:30: Ezra shares about his career as a Social Worker with Catholic Charities and his belief that good work is possible both within the Jewish organizational world and in other contexts. He also shares about his father's experiences in the Civil Rights Movement and their connection to Reform values. He speaks in particular about the Reform movement's values-based impact on his children.
  • 16:30-17:20: Rachel shares about how being included in a diverse community at Or Ami helped her to choose her career as an advocate for Disability Rights at the Disability Law Center of Virginia
  • 17:30-19:00: Rachel shares the particular experience of determining how to include her mother's Christian family members in her Bat Mitzvah.
  • 19:00-21:20: Chayva shares about her mother's experience of receiving a "blessing for non-Jewish spouses" at a high holiday service. 
  • 21:20-21:40: I welcome Chayva to the "Jew Too clergy/future clergy guests raised by one Jewish parent and one parent of another faith" club. 
  • 21:40-26:10: Chayva shares more of her Jewish journey and her mother's Jewish journey. She also discusses the relative level of inclusion for interfaith family members at Beth Am. 
  • 26:10-27:35: Rachel shares about how Or Ami continues to welcome interfaith families today and about her own desire to remain involved in her childhood synagogue. 
  • 27:35-30:05: Ezra shares about why he believes the Reform movement is so inclusive and also weighs in on the question of how he'd feel about his own children partnering with people who are not Jewish. 
  • 30:10-31:55 Thanks, Reform Judaism, for being so welcoming to so many. The work's not over. If you want to know more about Reform Judaism's inclusion work in particular, check out the Audacious Hospitality project. 
  •  31:55-end: Wrap-up! Thanks! Read the show notes (good job!). Donate! Give me feedback! Let me know if you want to be on the show! Follow us on social media! Forgive me if the next episode takes a bit because I'm graduating from rabbinical school and starting a new job