ELLE April 2009
Amy Morrison, the reform rabbi
Amy Morrison is a reform Jew, a form of Judaism born in Germany in the 19th century with particularly liberal ideas according to which the Torah, the sacred book, is a divinely inspired manuscript yet created by man. Amy Morrison is a rabbi. Thirty years old, born in East Lansing, Michigan, she also had a musical past having recorded a camp-folk Hebrew music CD. Today she teaches at the American Hebrew Academy, a prestigious high school in Greensboro, North Carolina. “I became a rabbi because I wanted to help others” she tells us. “I enjoy listening and quietly sitting with people for hours on end and I am always in search of a sacred relationship between myself, others, and God. As a rabbi I have been given the great privilege to be a part of many fundamental life-changing experiences and moments in other people’s lives. Births, marriages, and deaths are all examples of life cycle events in which strangers allow me to witness and participate in very personal family journeys. By simply being present and holding their hands, my life is enriched as well. It is a journey that we take together.”
But how is a woman with your role seen in traditional environments? “I’m a liberal Jew and have never had many problems as a female clergy person. My parents and brother are proud of what I do. In some cases however, I do come across men who are afraid of a religious woman’s point of view, her ability to explore sacred texts, and an overall lack of acceptance of a female leading a holy community. But I don’t lose my composure. I combat this male chauvinism knowing that I have a strong and rich education, kindness for all people in my heart, and a love for Judaism. And when in doubt, I was always taught to answer questions with “I don’t know, let me think about it,” a trait that many of my male counterparts avoid.
Are you like other people? At the end of the day I am a woman like many others, I watch teen-movies, go out at night with friends, argue with my parents, swear, and am a hopeless romantic. But as a female rabbi I also provide, encourage, support, welcome, trust, and seek a meaningful partnership with God. “That’s no small task.”
Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu