First Blind Female Rabbi Visits College

Bryce Haver ’20, Staff Writer

Rabbi Lauren Tuchman ’08 presented her work on the intersection of spirituality and social justice. Tuchman was the first blind female to become an ordained to the rabbinate. 

As well as being a spiritual leader, Tuchman has worked in social justice. She has advocated for those with disabilities as well as working with Avodah, where Jewish people participate in a year of service. Along with other accolades, Tuchman was featured in Jewish Week’s 36 under 36 for her work of inclusion of Jews with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life. 

 Tuchman described her experience as a rabbi, her achievements and her experience at Dickinson College. Tuchman then shared her views on activism via an anecdote in the Talmud. As a Rabbi’s apprentice walked home from Torah study, he came across a disfigured man and blurted out that he was ugly. The apprentice immediately regretted his words and begged for forgiveness, but the man was frustrated and said that you cannot apologize until you speak to my creator (God). However, as the man went to town, the towns people asked him to forgive the apprentice as he was an impressive scholar—the man begrudgingly agreed.  

 Tuchman shared this story for multiple reasons. One was to share that even in a holy book, it shows that Rabbis are people and can make mistakes. As a spiritual leader, many people look up to Tuchman, but she explained that she does not always have all the answers. She continued that this also describes the attitude that people have towards marginalized groups, in that these groups are typically forced to adapt to society rather than society adapting to them. 

 According to Tuchman, her approach to activism is to invest in relationship building. When people do not want to do the work to make a space inclusive, she finds that it is because people have not taken the time to empathize. One-way Tuchman defines activism is the courage to show up in spaces that are not typically meant for those who are affected and advocating for themselves. While she agrees that in an ideal world those who are marginalized should not have to advocate for themselves, she finds that activism should happen as a two-way street, where one party requests inclusivity and the other does their best to meet their goals. Overall, Tuchman described activism as an arduous and worthwhile process, but the most important thing to do, is show up as “your most authentic self”. 

 The event took place on February 17th at 7 p.m. at the Asbell Center for Jewish Life.