Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Does A Rabbi Look Like?

            “Manda, you can’t be a Rabbi. Rabbi’s don’t have that many piercings.” One of my 7th grade students said to me one day in class. I paused for a moment, “why do you say that?” I asked this student. “They just don’t—and you don’t look like a Rabbi”.
            I pondered this statement for a few days, wondering what does it mean to look like a Rabbi. We all have preconceived notions of what certain professions look like—Doctors that look to young often make us nervous, professors should have that slightly “bookish” look to them, as I child I always thought librarians had to be nice, middle aged or old ladies. Rabbis, just like any other profession were supposed to have a certain look to them
            I stopped thinking about this for awhile until a week ago when in class one of my 6th grade students said to me: “Wow Manda, you are such a hipster, I bet you listen to OK GO on vinyl on your record player, I am going to call you Hipster Teacher from now on” [please don’t get me started on the things wrong with that statement], to which another student said “or Hipster Rabbi”, to which the first student said “I think she has to stop being a hipster in order to be a Rabbi”.
            I am not saying I am a hipster [I am not a hipster]. The name of this blog is because so many people tell me I am a hipster [who are they to define me?]. The point of this entry is not to moan about how everyone calls me a hipster [though they really should stop], the point is to pose the question what is a Rabbi supposed to look like? I ask, not because I want to fit the mold but because the majority of the Rabbis and Rabbinical students I know do not look like Rabbis.
            The group of future Rabbis that I know is as diverse as they come. There are Jews by Choice and those born Jewish. They are, Liberal [politically] Jews, Republican Jews, and Libertarian Jews. They are straight, gay, bisexual, questioning their sexuality. They are first career rabbinical students, second career students, or maybe even third or fourth career. For those that this is not their first career, beforehand they were business people, worked non-profit, got degrees in education, were rocket scientists [I am not making that up]. Some have piercings. One brews beer as a hobby. They come from the North East, the Mid West, the actual West, the South, France, Canada, England, and Iowa. They are vegetarian, vegan, the biggest
carnivores you have ever met--some even [insert gasp] eat bacon and love shrimp.

Few of them look
like Rabbis.

I do not know what these people will look like once they are Rabbis, my question is—does it matter?