Angela Warnick Buchdahl

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Angela Warnick Buchdahl
Born Angela Lee Warnick
(1972-07-08) 8 July 1972 (age 43)
Seoul, South Korea
Residence New York City
Education - Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York (ordained cantor 1999, ordained rabbi 2001)
- Yale University (BA in Religious Studies, 1994)[1]
Alma mater Yale University
Occupation Rabbi
Known for Rabbi, cantor
Spouse(s) Jacob Buchdahl

Angela Warnick Buchdahl (born Angela Lee Warnick; 1972) is an American rabbi. She is the first Asian-American to be ordained as a rabbi, and the first Asian-American to be ordained as a hazzan (cantor) anywhere in the world.[2][3][4][5] She is also the first woman to become both a rabbi and a cantor; others had become one or the other, but not both.[6][6] In 2012 she was named by Newsweek Magazine as one of "America’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis,"[7] and was recognized as one of the top five in The Jewish Daily Forward's 2014 "Forward Fifty," a list of American Jews who have had the most impact on the national scene in the previous year.[8]

Early life[edit]

Buchdahl was born in Seoul, South Korea[9] to a Japanese-born Korean Buddhist mother, Sulja Yi Warnick, and Frederick David Warnick, an American Ashkenazi Reform Jew, whose ancestors emigrated from Moinești, Romania, and Russia to the United States.[10][1] At the age of five, she moved to the United States with her family. She was raised Jewish, attending Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington, which her great-grandparents had assisted in founding a century before. Like her mother, she became very involved in temple activities,[11] and became a leader in school and within the youth group. At the age of 16, she visited Israel through Bronfman youth fellowships with other Jewish teenagers from the U.S. and for the first time had the authenticity of her Judaism questioned by those who believe that only the children of a Jewish mother can be Jewish. Her Orthodox roommate told Buchdahl she did not consider her to be Jewish, and Israelis asked if she knew the meaning of the Star of David on her necklace. She notes that her experience in Israel was a painful one, where she felt marginalized and invisible. As a college student, she spent her summers working as head song leader at Camp Swig, a Reform Jewish camp in Saratoga, CA. At the age of 21 she underwent an orthodox conversion, which she views as a "reaffirmation ceremony." She attended Yale University, where she was one of the first female members of Skull and Bones, a secret society which counts former President George W. Bush and John Kerry, Secretary of State, as members. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies from Yale University in 1994, and began her cantorial and rabbinic studies at Hebrew Union College.[12][13]


In 1999 she was invested as a cantor and then ordained as a rabbi in 2001[14] by HUC-JIR, an American seminary for Reform Judaism.[15] She became assistant rabbi and cantor at Westchester Reform Temple, which in 2003 had membership of over 1,200 families.[16]

She appears in the PBS documentary 18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre.[17][5]

She joined Central Synagogue, a large Reform congregation in Manhattan, as senior cantor in 2006.[15][14][6] During her tenure as of 2012, Friday night attendance at the synagogue had doubled, post-bar mitzvah retention had tripled and the waiting list for membership had risen to over 300 (membership is capped at 2,000 families).[6] In 2013, she was named as the Senior Rabbi of the Central Synagogue.[18][19] She is the first woman and the first Asian-American to be their Senior Rabbi.[18][19]

She has served as faculty for the Wexner Heritage Foundation and for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Kallot programs, and on the board of the Jewish Multiracial Network.[15][20]

On 1 July 2014, Angela Buchdahl succeeded Peter Rubenstein as Senior Rabbi at Central Synagogue, the first woman and first Asian-American to hold the post in the Synagogue's long history, and one of only a few women serving as leaders of a major U.S. synagogue. Central Synagogue has membership of over 6,000, over $30 million in endowment, and approximately 100 full-time employees.[21]

In December 2014 she was welcomed by President Barack Obama to lead the prayers at the White House Hanukkah celebration. At the podium, she commented on how special the scene was, asking the President if he believed America's founding fathers could possibly have pictured that a female Asian-American rabbi would one day be at the White House leading Jewish prayers in front of the African-American president.[22] Her speech on the meaning of Hannukah and religious freedom met with applause and cheers.[23] Writer Abigail Pogrebin notes that as Buchdahl "stood alongside the African-American president and led us in the Hebrew blessing over the candles, there was a moving magnificence both in that unlikely tableau and in the sound of a Jewish prayer filling The People’s house."[24]

Personal life and ancestry[edit]

She and her husband Jacob Buchdahl, an attorney who was a classmate at Yale, have three children--Gabriel, Eli, and Rose--and live in New York City.

Her 20th great-grandfather on her mother's side was King Taejo, as she discovered when she was featured in Finding Your Roots, a PBS series hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr.[6] She also discovered then that her Romanian great-grandfather, Srul Soss, came by ship to New York in 1899 and lived a few blocks from the current location of Central Synagogue, where she is now rabbi.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Angela Buchdahl", Finding Your Roots—with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., PBS-TV, April 15, 2012
  2. ^ "“Troublemaker” Women Honored, Receive Ivy | auburn". 2009-08-22. Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  3. ^ "This Week in History - Angela Warnick Buchdahl invested as first Asian-American cantor | Jewish Women's Archive". 1999-05-16. Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  4. ^ "Women's History Month: Unique Rabbi-Cantor Follows Her Own Melody". 
  5. ^ a b "Angela Buchdahl". Finding Your Roots. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f
  7. ^ "Central Synagogue". 
  8. ^ "Forward 50 2014". The Jewish Daily Forward. 6 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl - the face of the modern Jew". Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  10. ^ Buchdahl, Angela Warnick, "My Personal Story: Kimchee on the Seder Plate", Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility, Published June, 2003. Reprinted March 28, 2012.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Angela Buchdahl, First Asian-American Rabbi, Vies for Role at Central Synagogue". The Jewish Daily Forward. 12 August 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "Our Clergy: Angela Warnick Buchdahl, Senior Cantor", Central Synagogue Web site
  15. ^ a b c "The Sisterhood 50 –". Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre". 
  18. ^ a b "Rabbi Angela Buchdahl To Lead Central Synagogue - The Jewish Week". The Jewish Week. 
  19. ^ a b "Central Synagogue Names First Asian-American Head Rabbi". The Jewish Daily Forward. 5 December 2013. 
  20. ^ "Angela Warnick Buchdahl: Our Clergy—About Central—Welcome to Central Synagogue". Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  21. ^ Sophia Hollander (18 January 2014). "New Rabbi at Manhattan's Central Synagogue 'a Pioneer'". WSJ. 
  22. ^ Eisner, Jane (18 December 2014). "A Most Inspiring Hanukkah at the White House". 
  23. ^ "Korean American Rabbi Speaks at the White House Hanukkah Reception". 
  24. ^ Pogrebin, Abigail (23 December 2014). "Light in Unexpected Places". 

Further reading[edit]