With the start of the 2021-22 school year upon us, we are highlighting members of the incoming class of students. Click here to see all of the posts in this series.
Today we’re talking with incoming Rabbinic student Anita Josefa Barzman, MD, who’s already taken some classes at the Academy.
Q1) Where do you live?
I live and work in San Francisco CA.
Q2) How did you first hear of AJRCA?
I learned about AJRCA from Cantor Marsha Attie, an alumna of AJRCA, and a dear teacher and mentor of mine at Congregation Emanu-El here in San Francisco. When I confided in Marsha that I was considering applying to rabbinical school, she strongly encouraged me to consider AJRCA. Thank you, dear Marsha!
Q3) What was it about AJRCA that drew you to enroll here?
Many elements of AJRCA are appealing to me. I love the pluralistic, transdenominational, intergenerational, warm and connected community. I love the diversity, creativity, and talent of AJRCA students. There is a high level of integrity and scholarship among the gifted and generous instructors. Since I first sat in on classes at AJRCA in December 2020, I have repeatedly seen and experienced the warmth and connectedness among students and faculty.
AJRCA’s flexibility with respect to distance learning and individualized courses of study were also significant draws for me. As a mature learner who is deeply involved with her current career (more on that to follow), the flexibility of AJRCA means that there is a way forward for me to be on the path of studying for the rabbinate.
Q4) What were you doing prior to enrolling?
I’ve been a physician since the mid-1980’s. I’m a psychiatrist, Jungian psychoanalyst, and classically trained homeopath. After nearly 30 years in private practice, six years ago I returned to working in public psychiatry, following a call to be more actively involved with social justice in my daily work, and have the good fortune to be employed by the City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Health as the psychiatrist on the Street Medicine and Shelter Health Teams, which work with people experiencing homelessness. Also, I have the honor to be a member of the Ethics Committee and serve on the Ethics Consult Service at San Francisco General Hospital, our county hospital here in SF, and am a Volunteer Clinical Faculty Member at UCSF School of Medicine.
I decided to apply to AJRCA from the depths of the COVID pandemic, in late 2020. What was I doing at that time? As a result of the isolation caused by the pandemic, I had been deeply considering my relationship with my Jewishness, with my synagogue, with Judaism, and with God. The resulting experiences of turning inward and connecting led to my decision to take the step to say first to myself, and then to the world, that I wanted to study to be a rabbi.
Q5) As you embark on this experience, what are you most excited about?
After enrolling in my first class at AJRCA and then being admitted to the Rabbinical Program (in January 2021), I soon became aware that the process of preparing for the rabbinate isn’t only a matter of book learning, but also is a matter of inner transformation. Thus, I’m looking forward to the coming years of learning on all levels together with other amazing AJRCA students, and to mentorship and guidance from the outstanding AJRCA faculty.
I’m looking forward to many opportunities to dive deeply into all sorts of questions that are of great interest to me – textual, spiritual, theologic, halakhic, historical, social, ethical – with teachers and fellow spiritual practitioners-in-training. I’m looking forward to developing myself as a teacher and leader so that I can – hopefully – someday guide others in their own search for meaning and deeper connection with God.