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An Interview with Rabbi Toba Spitzer

July 25, 2017

Rabbi Toba Spitzer, ’97, gave an insightful and thought-provoking interview to www.myjewishlearning.com. The spiritual leader of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton, Mass. became the first lesbian to lead a rabbinical association when, in 2007, she was elected president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. Much more recently, Rabbi Spitzer was elected president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis. The interview was originally published on July 24. Read the entire piece here.

Here is an excerpt. Rabbi Spitzer was asked what it was like being out in rabbinical school in the early 1990s.

“First of all, being out influenced where I went to school. At the time, if you were out, the only two options were the Reform and Reconstructionist movements. When I got to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, there was actually some visibility of gay and especially lesbian students. It just turned out that my incoming class had a lot of lesbians and one gay man. That wasn’t a trend, but it ended up being very comfortable. I entered in 1992, and in 1993 the movement put out a historic statement about inclusion of gays and lesbians, including the movement’s position on same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, trans issues weren’t really on the radar at that time.

Also at that time, I met with Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who had graduated a few years before and had been unable to get a pulpit job. She told me to go into rabbinical school not expecting to get a job, so I did that. As far as I know, there were no out rabbis in any places that weren’t explicitly LGBT synagogues. And then when my class graduated, there were three of us who were out–two lesbians and one gay man–who were hired as congregational rabbis. I think we were the first. When we were graduating, there were three Reconstructionist congregations that had gone through a workshop series created by the movement which was designed to help congregations be welcoming to gay and lesbian rabbis. I only applied to congregations that had been through that process. I knew that it would be enough of an issue–just me being there–that I didn’t want to have to fight it from the ground up.”