Spotlight: Rabinnical Student Koach Baruch Frazier | Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Spotlight: Rabinnical Student Koach Baruch Frazier

News

By Eric Schucht; Photo: Rafael Shimunov

Originally published in the Jewish Exponent on May 11, 2020

Koach Baruch Frazier

Koach Baruch Frazier

For a time, Koach Baruch Frazier felt spiritual, but disconnected from religion. That all changed after taking a college course on world religions.

Coming out as trans and queer was one thing, but coming out as Jewish would be a different kind of experience.

Frazier, 42, grew up in an African Methodist Episcopal household in Kansas City, Missouri. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree at Saint Louis University and a doctorate in audiology at Central Michigan University.

His career as an activist includes participating in the protests that sprung up around Ferguson, Missouri, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in 2014.

Frazier moved to the Philadelphia area to enroll in Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, where he has been a student since fall 2018. He lives in West Philadelphia and is a member of Kol Tzedek.

Earlier this year, Frazier was named an LGBTQ Jewish Hero by Keshet, a national organization working toward the inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in Jewish life.

Why did you decide to go to rabbinical school?

So, I’ve been doing activism for a long time, but I was definitely activated during the Ferguson uprising. And I was one of the drummers who would go out with people to give cadence and music and rhythm and presence to the protest and the actions that were happening.

As a part of that, I was increasingly noticing my, like, push, call, however you want to say it, towards leadership in a more spiritual ground as opposed to showing up with my drum and understanding the workings of energy, particularly to sound, and just how influential and also transformative it was. And so that was part of the impetus of wanting to have a little firmer foundation for the work that I had already been doing.

What are your plans for after you’re ordained?

I haven’t decided yet, but I definitely want to continue to be with the people who, in my eyes, are neglected by spiritual caretakers — people of color, queer folks, people who are at the margins, disabled folks. How can I best support, particularly spiritually, the people who have for many years been neglected? So wherever that happens to be, that’s where I will be.

Have you experienced any problems as a trans person and a person of color from people in the Jewish community?

There are moments in which initially (people) seeing me as a trans person or a black person in Jewish spaces bumps up against their box of ideas and values that they either grew up with or have decided or claimed as theirs. And, generally, some people can let those barriers of their boxes down, which is beautiful to see. Not everybody can do that.

What is your hope for the future of the Jewish community?

I am looking forward to the day when the American Jewish community, recognizes, appreciates and uplifts the stories, culture and beauty of Jews all over. I realize that for such a long time, the Jews of America have been majority white Jews.

And as we notice that it’s not like that anymore, instead of us going back to this safety of lashing out and fear and feeling insecure in our own Jewishness and our own story, that we just learn to accept those who are here with us, that we appreciate all of the specialness and the beauty that Jews of all races and ethnicities have to offer.

 

More News

College News

Dynamic Hebrew Bible Scholar to Lead Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Amanda Beckenstein Mbuvi, Ph.D., has been named the next vice president for academic affairs at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) outside Philadelphia. Mbuvi (she/her), a scholar of Hebrew Bible, brings to this role a wealth of academic, administrative and nonprofit leadership experience.

News
College News

RRC Student Armin Langer Selected for J Street Seminary Fellowship 

Armin Langer, a rabbinical student in his final year at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, has been selected to participate in J Street’s Seminary Student Fellowship for the 2021-22 academic year.  

News
College News

Sharon Kleinbaum, RRC '90, rabbi of New York City LGBTQ synagogue, picked to rejoin US religious freedom commission

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who has led New York City’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah since 1992, is one of President Joe Biden’s choices to join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

News
College News

Rabbi Emily Cohen ('18) Rabbi Connecting Jews on the Margins

I’m grateful to be a tech native since that has vastly improved my ability to do my work via Zoom and phone this year, but in some ways it feels like this first year will have been the warm up to my proper entry into the West End community. 

News
College News

The Naval petty officer who found her rabbinic legs at sea — Rabbinical Student Kanaan Goldstein

Goldstein chose to affiliate with the Reconstructionist Judaism movement and enroll in its seminary, because she felt it was “the only school for me because it is aligned with my values as a human being. Its policy on interfaith relations, Jewish blood lines, attitudes towards inclusivity and diversity – it made me feel that this is the school where I belong.”

News
College News

Kol hakavod Rabbi Miriam Geronimus ('21)

Geronimus chose to pursue rabbinic studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinic College because of its combined focus on Jewish history, culture, and spirituality. As a longtime spiritual seeker with an academic orientation, she found the rabbinic program that would work for her. She particularly appreciated the RRC’s emphasis on practical rabbinics.

News
College News

Rabbi returns home to become health care chaplain - Rabbi Rachel Davidson ('21)

For Cleveland native Rabbi Rachel Davidson, the road to chaplaincy is leading right back to Cleveland as a chaplain resident at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center near University Circle. “When I had the calling to the rabbinate, I felt specifically really pulled to becoming a health care chaplain,” Davidson told the Cleveland Jewish News June 21. “To become a chaplain, you need training after seminary, so I’m starting that next level of training.”

News
College News

Incoming rabbi looks forward to meeting congregants in person - Rabbi Mikey Hess Webber ('21)

Rabbi Mikey Hess Webber has served as Columbia Jewish Congregation’s rabbinic intern for nearly a year and is now about to become the congregation’s new rabbi and spiritual leader, but she has yet to meet her new congregation face to face.

News
College News

Rabbi Michael Perice ('20) Shares Experience of Opiate Addiction to Help Others

Rabbi Michael Perice, a 2020 RRC graduate, recently told his congregation the story of his four-year struggle with opioid addiction and his celebration of 10 years of sobriety. His motive: to break down the stigma of addiction and inspire others to get help. 

News
College News

On Juneteenth, Joy and Grief Mingle for Black Jews - Rabbinical Student Koach Frazier

When Koach Baruch Frazier prepares their seder plate, they nestle beets next to okra, blackeyed peas, eggs boiled in hibiscus tea, hot red peppers, baked sweet potato and cornbread, all arranged in a plate set next to a kiddush cup fizzing with red soda, in observance of Juneteenth.

News
College News

New Sacred Music Inspired By COVID - Rabbinical Student, Solomon Hoffman

Solomon Hoffman’s foray into COVID sacred music came out of his experience as a hospital chaplain in New York City during the height of the virus’s outbreak.

News
College News

The Forward Spotlights Rabbi Darby Leigh ('08)

“This has been 1000% my experience,” he continued. “I have continuously been aware on a daily basis of living in a society that is not set up to meet my needs. But this is true for so many people – gay, trans-, bi-. If you’re a person of color here you are not living in a world set up for you. If you are a person with a disability you know this society was not set up for you”

News
College News

Film chronicles the work of Rabbi Kevin Hale ('97)

The film follows the work that Hale, the Northampton rabbi, does to restore two Torahs that were among nearly 1,600 scrolls saved in Prague, capital of what was then Czechoslovakia, after World War II. Workers in a Jewish museum in the city had stored Torahs and other valuables from synagogues that had been shut down following the German occupation.

News
College News

Reconstructionist congregations partner across the miles - Rabbi Nitkin-Kaner ('16) and Rabbi Weissman ('17)

Little did these two rabbinical students imagine that within a decade they would bring together their Reconstructionist congregations — one located in Ann Arbor and one in Attleboro, Massachusetts — for joint worship services and holiday celebrations on a platform called Zoom.

News
College News

The Well & Jewish News’ 36 Under 36: Rabbi Ari Witkin ('19)

The great joy of his job is supporting Metro Detroiters leadership in the work of building and strengthening our community. In addition to his role at Federation, he currently serves as the part-time rabbi of Temple Beth Israel in Bay City.

News