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by Rhonda Spivak, February 5, 2018

Rabbi Micah Buck Yael from St Louis spoke at Limmud Winnipeg 2018 on the topics of "Sacred Language for Diversity and Inclusion" and "Gender diversity in Jewish Texts."


Rabbi Buck Yael says that" We are a people who value different perspectives and are willing to challenge the mainstream" and he notes that that Judaism "has always been a religion that not only listens to but centers voices that might otherwise be on the margins."


Rabbi Buck Yael  serves as coordinator of community chaplaincy with the Jewish Family & Children’s Service in St. Louis. In this capacity he serves the Jewish needs of a wide and diverse population, and works as an advocate and educator on issues of LGBT justice. "In my work as a community chaplain  I serve people of all movements [Orthodox, Conservative, Reform etc]  as well as people not affiliated with any movements," he says


In an article that Rabbi Buck Yael wrote for Keshet in 2014 entitled "The Coming Out Process", he explained that "For me, coming out has never been as simple as you would think. I’ve done it a few times—I first came out as queer as a teenager, and now as an adult I have come out all over again as transgender. This latest coming-out process has taken me the better part of two years, countless half-steps in the direction of being out, and finally the decision to just trust that it would work out." (


The Winnipeg Jewish Review asked Rabbi Buck Yael whether he personally has experienced discrimination in the Jewish community. He responded, "I have not experienced outright discrimination in my professional life but seeing ways in which the Jewish community was not succeeding in welcoming all Jews of all kinds was one of the biggest motivations for my becoming a Rabbi. This kind of welcoming is built into the bones of Judaism. The work to be done is about us actually living up to this."


In his Keshet article, Rabbi Buck Yael noted that he had " watched my tradition struggle—and have some success, however imperfect—at becoming a tradition that welcomed and treated with dignity all people. I wasn’t always happy with the way these conversations were going, and I came to the rabbinate in order to add my voice. I came out of a sense of obligation to Am Yisrael (the Jewish people) and a desire to build moral and welcoming communities."


When asked whether he feels that Jewish communal life today can be more inclusive, Rabbi Buck Yael told the Winnipeg Jewish Review "Yes. More can always be done."


Originally from Washington, DC, Rabbi Buck Yael earned a BA in Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern Studies at Washington University. He graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York (which is affiliated with the Conservative Movement)with an MA in Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, and a Certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling. He lives in University City with his wife Aviva and their children Naftali, Yeshara, Elior, and Leora.


One of the subjects Rabbi Buck Yael spoke about at Limmud is  "how we as a community create language that reflects who we are," language which is inclusive and welcoming, not language which leaves people out.


For example, Rabbi Buck Yael referred to  one version of the Morning Blessings that became mainstream, which included wording referring to thanking G-d for not making one a woman, a slave or a non-Jew.


"Many denominations of Judaism have looked at the history of this text and have discovered that this version of the prayer was never the only version. They therefore use a different version of the prayer. Rather than giving thanks for what we're not, each one of us can give thanks  for what we are," he says.


In addition to speaking at Limmud, Rabbi Buck Yael gave a session to Jewish community professionals on the topic of inclusion.



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.