Alumni Spotlight: Rabbi Chava Bahle
Field of Study: MA in Near Eastern Studies
Year in Program: 1994
I am a Rabbi in the Jewish Renewal tradition; my education in the Department of Near Eastern Studies provided an invaluable base for my work. I sit on the board of the OHALAH: Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal where we envision a contemporary Judaism that is joyous, creative, spiritually rich, socially progressive, and earth-aware.
I am very honored to have begun studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago where I will be the first rabbi and Jewish person to go through the Doctor of Ministry program. My UM education stood me in good stead for the depth of study at CTU.
For 12 years I have served as the Jewish clergy at the Jewish-Catholic Family School. We have 120 families with one Jewish parent and one Christian parent, who are raising the children as both Jewish and Catholic. This work is a great joy and grows in part out of the wonderful weaving of literature, culture and history I experienced in Near Eastern Studies.
To best understand how I think currently about interreligious dialogue, please see the TEDx talk that I gave here in my home town of Traverse City.
I also serve as the full time Senior Spiritual Leader of a Unitarian Universalist congregation. This is another religious first; it has never happened before that a UU has called a rabbi as its settled spiritual leader. Here is a nice Huffington Post piece about that.
I serve as the Hebrew Spirituality Faculty for the Academy for Spiritual Formation. Twice a year I travel across the country to teach Protestant ministers and committed lay people for a week at a time. My training as a Teaching Assistant at UM laid the ground work for all of my teaching activity.
I am also ordained as a Maggid, a Jewish inspirational preacher and story teller, and find that my range of interest also draws on my UM background in appreciating text – ancient, modern, and from a range of traditions.
In short, the Department of Near Eastern Studies prepared me to be a good reader, thinker and teacher. I’ve taken things in different directions than I expected at graduation, but UM and NES are instrumental in the ways I hope to touch the world.
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