Meet Rabbi Laura Rumpf, our new Jewish educator! We spoke with Rabbi Laura about her homecoming to Seattle, her background and career, how we can lean on our Jewish values to teach us about resilience during difficult moments, and much more. Welcome, Rabbi Laura!
What brought you to JFS? Can you share a little about your professional experience?
I grew up in Seattle, in a home that embraced community service as our family’s “religion”. When my own spiritual curiosity brought me into deeper exploration of my Jewish heritage as a college student at Stanford, I eventually decided to pursue rabbinical school as a way to wed my love of serving diverse needs in an urban setting, with my passion for ritual, learning and community connection. I’ve loved the wide range of settings I’ve been able to be a rabbi thus far-from a playful summer camp in the Yosemite redwoods, to a large reform congregation where I got to spearhead teen engagement and social justice efforts as well as meet families and individuals across the generational spectrum. I am excited to bring my passion for education and relationship-building back home to Seattle, and to lift up the incredible work JFS is doing to serve vulnerable populations, and to bring Jews together from diverse backgrounds into community through diverse meaningful avenues for engagement.
What is your approach to Jewish education, and/or education in general? Which groups (ages, etc.) have you worked with in your career?
I love to lead from curiosity, and find that building relationships through learning together leads to meaningful transformation and positive community impact. I employ a wide range of mediums, from music, to art, to poetry as well as traditional rabbinic texts to help spark conversations that will inspire learners into deeper connection. I have facilitated learning and creative workshops for all ages—from tots to elders in their 80s and 90s. I find particular joy in working with teens and young adults as they explore resilience, and create their own way of making Judaism relevant to their lives.
Was there an experience or teacher you had who inspired you to go down the path of education?
I went to college imagining that I would follow my love of writing and listening to people’s stories into a career in journalism. What I discovered, unexpectedly, was a yearning to feel a sense of belonging and meaning-making that I wasn’t finding in my classes or in chasing headlines. The Hillel rabbi on campus at the time, Rabbi Mychal Copeland, gave me the courage to walk through the doors of an Jewish institution I imagined I would be an outsider in, and inspired me with her “come as you are” approach to exploring Judaism and spirituality. She didn’t need to see my Jewish credentials or care that I hadn’t gone to a popular Jewish summer camp. Instead, she encouraged me to bring my full self, including my multi-faith background and interest in social justice to my Jewish practice. I think of her and do my best to emulate her “come as you are” spirit to any teaching I offer, or service I lead.
During this time of uncertainty due to COVID-19, what do you think is the most important lesson we can take from our Jewish values?
What a great question! In this moment of profound and prolonged uncertainty, I am drawing from a long Jewish history of communal resilience that centers interdependence—or awareness of the way our suffering or flourishing hinges on being attentive to each other. Individuals and families of all backgrounds face diverse, and multi-layered challenges, and it feels clear to me that we will only emerge from this time whole if we practice the Jewish value of ‘Chesed’ or “loving-kindness in action” with our dear ones, but also with those we don’t know, and those closest to the pain of the pandemic. Though we can’t all be frontline responders, everyone can check on neighbors, act generously, be thoughtful and stand on the side of love. My mentor, Rabbi Amy Eilberg, recently asked, “Might we continue to be kinder with one another even after the threat of the virus is gone?” Olam Hesed Yibaneh — let the world be built from loving kindness (Psalm 89).
How has being a rabbi shaped you and how you view the world?
To me, the great appeal of the rabbinic path is that you’re always learning, and always surprised by what unfolds in that learning. I try to live as if each person I encounter has an entire “Torah” to them, or a multi-layered story of who they are, and what makes them come alive. In a world with a lot of despair and brokenness, I find that engaging others with openness and asking “How is it for you?” is often a gateway to healing and growing together in a sacred way, whatever beliefs about God or religion we may or may not share. I am most moved by an understanding of spirituality or religion as the way we feel a part of something beyond ourselves. I am endlessly curious about what connects others to that sense of larger belonging, and I try to bring texts and topics to learners that will draw out more of that connection.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I have a one-year-old son and demanding 10lb dog Bilbo—both have redefined spare time for me in many ways! My new favorite leisure activities involve dropping food on the ground and picking it up again, and peekaboo. In my precious “adult” free time, I love dance, yoga and most forms of movement, exploring Seattle’s cafes with my husband Jay and meeting friends on gorgeous Northwest hiking trails.
To get in touch with Rabbi Laura Rumpf, you can email her at email@example.com. Plus, mark your calendars to hear from Rabbi Laura on December 5, as part of the Jewish Federation’s virtual “Share the Light!” Chanukah community celebration. More info to come.