With the start of the 2022-23 school year upon us, we are highlighting members of the incoming class of students. Click here to see all of the articles in this series.
Today we’re talking with incoming Rabbinic student Yedida Kanfer.
Q1) Where do you live?
Bay Area, CA
Q2) How did you first hear of AJRCA?
During the pandemic, my synagogue brought its services online and took a hiatus from its weekly Saturday kiddush luncheon. When we gathered together again in person for the first time, it was like I was meeting people anew. Alex Weisz (current AJRCA rabbinical student) was telling me about his thesis, and about the classes he was taking remotely, and about the AJRCA faculty, including fellow member of our synagogue, Professor Joel Gereboff.
Q3) What was it about AJRCA that drew you to enroll here?
There have been times when I’ve felt like an outsider in my Judaism. There are so many topics I think we can talk more about in our communities: disability, mental health, infertility, and the meaning of “family,” just to name a few. I love that the AJRCA community embraces multiple avenues toward practicing Judaism and finding meaning within Judaism. The openness toward growth, and the cultivation of unique individual journeys—this is astounding. It allows for a creativity in approach that I think is really essential in our post-pandemic world.
Q4) What were you doing prior to enrolling?
I received a Ph.D. in East European Jewish history from Yale University. This involved learning a lot of languages—Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, Polish, German—and spending a lot of time in Israel, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia (the latter on a Fulbright Fellowship). With the rise of hatred and racism in this country over the past 6 years, I found myself called to the work of social and community engagement. I am currently the Director of Programming at the JFCS Holocaust Center in San Francisco. I teach about social responsibility: the idea that each of our decisions and actions has an impact—on ourselves, our families, our communities, and society at large.
Q5) As you embark on this experience, what are you most excited about?
AJRCA has its own chaplaincy school, which is unique among Jewish rabbinical seminaries. I’m really excited to commence my own spiritual journey, so that I can be present for others in their time of need.