“My freshman year at Tulane I started as an assistant teacher,” says Rebecca Lederkramer, now a senior and a full-fledged instructor in beginner Hebrew and eighth grade Religious School. After four years of growth at Temple Sinai as a leader in the Jewish community, Rebecca will pursue her rabbinical ordination this fall at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.
Have you always wanted to be a rabbi? I actually have not. It’s sort of a product of the last three years. There’s definitely a very long explanation, but if I were to say it briefly, I would say it’s a product of having a really difficult time adjusting to Tulane and college in general, feeling really alone, and finding myself grounded in a Jewish community and having familiar traditions and prayers, people with similar values who understood that, and that was really a grounding force and a guiding force for me in difficult times. I really enjoyed my position as a leader in a Jewish community and decided that it was important to me that I continue that.
What excites you about being a rabbi? I think that Judaism is at a really pivotal point. I think it’s really interesting to see now, especially post-election season, a lot of people invoking Judaism in different ways, and in a political climate that I haven’t really seen before Granted, that political climate won’t be the same in six years when I graduate from rabbinical school, but it’s a really interesting time for where Jewish leadership stands and what the role of Jewish communities are. Especially in the diaspora, what [does it mean] to be an American citizen and to be a Jew? I think there’s a generational shift in that, even in my time from being a camper and a student in the Reform movement to being a teacher–I teach in the curriculum–and I think that’s not reflective of hypocrisy. I think that’s reflective of a real, changing narrative. I think that the meaning of what it means to be a Jew and an American citizen is shifting, and that’s a really exciting thing to be a part of.
What have you learned at Temple Sinai that you think will help serve you as a rabbi or just as a human being in general? At Temple Sinai, as a teacher, I’ve learned the role and the impact that teachers can have, even from a few hours–especially with my eigth grade students, who are at a point where they’re really engaging with their Jewish identies and forming those identities independently of their parents. I’ve had really great conversations with them, where we’ve sat down and dissected things and I’ve seen their view of themselves as a Jew change, or what Judaism means to them change. I think it’s really shown me the role that teachers can have in helping to guide students in informing their Jewish identity and their Jewish practice–I think it’s really powerful.