Kibbitzing and questions with Sarah Tasman – the new rabbi at Hillel

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By Michele Amira

Rabbi Sarah Tasman is the senior Jewish educator at Maryland Hillel, coming into the position formerly held by Rabbi Jessica Lott. Among other responsibilities, Tasman will work with Reform students, lead learning initiatives and serve as an educational resource for the Women’s Leadership Conference, according to Maryland Hillel.

Michele: What made you want to be a rabbi at Hillel?

Sarah: I was super involved at Hillel as an undergrad at the University of Michigan. I really loved working with students who were Jewish. I felt a strong pull to reach unaffiliated Jews. One of my favorite programs that I did was called “Salsa Con Chutzpah.” We worked with the Michigan salsa dance team and the Israeli dance group for this amazing program. By the end of the night it was like a big dance party. This helped me see a niche I wanted to fill in the Jewish community, which was trying to help people connect to Judaism with their secular lives. From there, I worked for two years at MIT Hillel as a Jewish core campus fellow, which was really fun. I got to do a lot of creative engagement on campus. Then, I went to rabbinical school at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College in Boston. During the next couple of years, I was kind of a community rabbi doing a lot of different part-time jobs. I got to lead some Reform High Holiday services for the Yale community. Recently, I moved to Washington, D.C. where I’ve been involved at Adas Israel and Sixth and I synagogues, as well. When I saw there was this opening at Hillel for a rabbi [to be a] senior Jewish educator, I was super excited to have an opportunity to be a part of such a vibrant Jewish community.

M: What are some of the things the Jewish Terrapins can expect from you this coming semester?

S: I’m really excited about offering some Jewish yoga experiences on campus. I’m in the process of organizing a series of classes before each Jewish holiday, like Shavuot, Purim and Passover. The yoga sessions will be centered on those holidays.

M: Can you tell the Mitzpeh about your involvement with the Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikvah movement?

S: I’ve been a mikvah guide at the Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikvah which is rooted in ancient tradition, reinvented to serve the Jewish community of today. The Mayyim Hayyim model of a mikvah is where women can explore the ritual of monthly immersion on their own terms. I’ve been a guide at both the Mayyim Hayyim Center, as well as Adas Israel right here in D.C. I’ve also taught workshops on this meaningful ritual at American University about how can we realize the immersion in water to mark life traditions with Jewish ritual. For example, there are ceremonies for everything from bat mitzvahs, healing from miscarriage from pregnancy, coming out as gay, surviving cancer, and a range of ceremonies and immersions from the simcha [happiness] to the sadness.”

M: So with Hanukkah coming up, what do you like better — sufganiyot or potato pancakes?

S: I am a potato pancake girl all the way when it comes to Hanukkah.

M: I am such a sufganiyot girl myself. So one more question: what is your favorite Jewish holiday?

S: I would have to say Rosh Chodesh. I love that it happens every month and each month is an opportunity for finding spirituality for the upcoming Jewish holiday. It also serves as an opportunity for fusing femininity with Judaism. I have been thinking about actually getting together a Rosh Chodesh group at Hillel, actually.

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