As the celebration of Women’s History Month begins in March, the realization of incredible women who work and learn here at Temple University becomes all the more apparent. One of these women is Co-Director of the Women’s Studies program Rebecca Alpert, who has lead a life that can inspire any young woman.
Raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Alpert attended Barnard College in New York City. In 1971, she graduated from Barnard with a bachelor’s degree in Religion. Five years later, Alpert became one of the first six women in the world to be ordained a Rabbi at Rabbinical College, where she acted as dean of students for 10 years.
A recently ordained Rabbi, Alpert obtained a doctorate in Religion from Temple University. As an assistant professor of Religion and Women Studies for Temple, Alpert is currently teaching a course titled Discovering Liberal Arts.
In this course, the definition of truth is analyzed under the topic of “truth and lies.” This class explores both the academic and moral arenas and looks to see how they complicate one another in searching for truth.
“Everybody has to figure out how to tell the truth,” said Alpert about her class.
Alpert has searched for truth in her religion as well as her personal life. Following a divorce from her husband of fifteen years, Alpert became comfortable enough with her sexuality to reveal that she is a lesbian.
Of course coming out wasn’t easy. Alpert lost her position as dean at Rabbinical College.
“They weren’t ready for another lesbian,” Alpert reasoned Rabbinical’s position. One out Rabbi was already employed by the college and “two was one too many.”
Now an open advocate of her sexuality, Alpert serves as advisor to the Temple student organization Lambda Alliance, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allies alliance. As an advisor to this organization Alpert says she “tries to give the students as much freedom as possible.” She helps them make contacts with different people, but for the most part lets them do what they think is important.
Also, in efforts to depict what it means to be a lesbian in her religion, she authored “Like Bread on the Seder Plate: Jewish Lesbians and the Transformation of Tradition,” and co-edited “Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation.”
“[These books are] an effort to help Jewish people come to terms with gay people in their midst,” said Alpert.
Being one of the first women ordained a Rabbi and lesbian, Alpert has faced adversity, but she has not let it stop her from being who she wants to be. Any woman should find some type of inspiration in examining Alpert’s life. Her life is an example that hardships exist and no woman should be intimidated or scared to fulfill their own dreams and goals.