What does a rabbi look like? Do you envision the rabbi of your childhood when you picture a rabbi? Is it an iteration of Tevye, the lead character from Fiddler on the Roof? At the annual convention for the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) this question was posed in a myriad of ways, especially as the work of the Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate led a program on creating cultural change. 45 years after the ordination of the first female rabbi in North America, too many people struggle to break that old image. One way Reform Rabbis and the CCAR are changing the narrative is the hashtag and amazing photos, #ThisIsWhatARabbiLooksLike (I encourage you to search for this hashtag on your favorite social media platform).
By elevating the voice of the Reform rabbinate in the press, on social media, in the coffee shop, in the classroom, in the hospital room, and in the communal organization, Reform Rabbis are changing the perception of what a rabbi looks like.
A rabbi is tall. A rabbi is short. A rabbi is strong. A rabbi is differently able. A rabbi is a woman. A rabbi is a man. A rabbi is trans. This is what a rabbi looks like. Rabbis reflect the beautiful tapestry of humanity.
As I’ve been thinking and reflecting at the annual convention about these issues my amazing colleague at Temple Beth Hillel sent me the following photo and text.
“Ariela says, ‘this is Rabbi Ellie in the front.’”
As part of young Ariela’s imaginary play, one of her rabbis participates! This too is what a rabbi looks like.
And the next day this arrived:
“Today you are the top doll. She also said you like zebras.”
Thank God, children with the their profound imagination really understand what rabbis look like. May we continue to learn from them.
Rabbi Eleanor Steinman is the Director of Religious Education at Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village, CA. This blog was originally posted at rabbisteinman.com/blog