Oral History

Rebecca Alpert

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  Read a transcript of the interview.

  Read Rebecca Alpert's profile.

The original recording of this interview and the transcript are located in the Urban Archives at the Samuel Paley Library at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which graciously gave permission to display digital copies of them on this website. Permission from the Urban Archives must be obtained before reproducing any portion of this interview or transcript.

Biographical Notes

Rebecca Trachtenberg Alpert was born to a non-observant Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York in April, 1950. She grew up in Brooklyn, attended synagogue, and absorbed Jewish culture from Brooklyn's civic life. She lived with her parents while she studied religion at Barnard College. To enlarge her experience, she spent her junior year in Israel and returned interested in the Reconstructionist movement as it was then evolving. With encouragement from Elaine Pagels, Alpert decided to enter the Reconstructionist Rabinical College (RRC) in Philadelphia, its third woman candidate. There she met and married fellow student Joel Alpert. She graduated from RRC in 1976 and completed a doctorate in Religion at Temple in 1978. After graduation she was active in the Philadelphia communities and she began to teach as an adjunct and work as a rabbi with numerous Reconstructionist congregations across the United States. She worked in an administrative capacity at RRC as the Dean of Students until 1987. 

Rebecca had two children with Joel, a daughter Lynn in 1982 and son Avi in 1984. In 1986, Rebecca came out as a lesbian; she and Joel divorced on friendly terms, and Rebecca became partners with Christie Balka. At that time, but not specifically because of coming out, her relationship with RRC ruptured. From 1988-1991 she was the Director of Adult Programs at Temple University, and in 1992, she became the Director of the Women's Studies Program at Temple University. In 1997, she became a member of its Religion and Women's Studies faculty, where she currently teaches courses on American religion, religion and sexuality, lesbian and gay lives, and race and gender. Concurrently, she has been active with the American Academy of Religion, the Women's Law Project, and the Family Planning Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania. She was also the co-chair of the Mayor's Commission on Sexual Minorities in Philadelphia under the Rendell administration. 

She began writing for a variety of Jewish and Lesbian anthologies, and wrote her first book on lesbian issues, Like Bread On The Seder Plate, in 1997. She then edited Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation with Sue Elwell and Shirley Idelson. She has written and spoken in scholarly and religious forums about Reconstructionist Judaism and the intersection of Judaism and lesbian feminism. 

She is currently Chair of the Religion Department and Associate Professor of Religion and Women's Studies at Temple University and has begun to work on a writing project about religion, race, and sports from a Jewish perspective.

Additional Resources

Publications

  • Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation editor, with Sue Elwell and Shirley Idelson, (Rutgers University Press, 2001) 2002 Finalist for Lambda Literary Award
  • Voices of the Religious Left: A Contemporary Sourcebook editor (Temple University Press, 2000)
  • Exploring Judaism: A Reconstructionist Approach with Jacob Staub, (Reconstructionist Press, 1985 and rev.ed. 2000)
  • Like Bread on the Seder Plate: Jewish Lesbians and the Transformation of Tradition (Columbia University Press, 1997) 1998 Lambda Literary Award and 1999 Award for Scholarship from the Jewish Women's Caucus of the Association for Women in Psychology

Web Resources