Rabbi Sara Luria ’04

DEGREES: B.A. in international studies with a focus on Africa and the Middle East, a concentration in religion, and a double minor in human rights and Jewish studies; M.A. in Hebrew literature and rabbinical ordination, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

CURRENT JOB TITLE: Executive director, ImmerseNYC: A Community Mikveh Project

ACTIVITIES AT TRINITY: Hillel, VOID (Voices Organized in Democracy, a progressive political organization), Community Service Office

What originally drew you to Trinity?
The urban environment; I’m from Brooklyn, and I wanted to be in a city.

Which professor(s) had the most impact on you and why?
Fred Pfeil had a really powerful impact on both me and my husband (Isaac Goldstein Luria ’05), not only as a professor in classes but as a generous, compassionate person. Levana Polate loved teaching, she loved students, and she loved the Hebrew language. Joe Barber’s incredible commitment to justice is a model for his students. Ron Kiener always pushed me and challenged me to think more deeply about the Jewish and political struggles I was having. Then there was Lisa Kassow–there was no one in my life like Lisa. She was a nurturing, loving, thoughtful person who I spent a lot of time with at a very formative time in my life. She knew how to ask the right questions of me to push me to become the person I aspired to be. I always felt like we were a team working to create the best Jewish life on campus.

What was your favorite college course and why?
What comes to mind is the international studies senior seminar “Chocolate” with Michael Niemann. It traced the history and the economic, political, and social impact of chocolate in the world. It was really about a global commodity and its journey in time and space. And we ate different kinds of chocolate during every session!

What is your favorite memory of Jewish life at Trinity?
I loved leading Shabbat services. Every Friday night, as the sun was setting and Hillel began to fill up, Marcie (Yoselevsky ’04) and I would get a little nervous–we always wondered if people would come, and they almost always did. It was a really exciting time to be part of Hillel. 

What did you do after you graduated?
I became a fellow at JOIN for Justice, a community organizing fellowship for young Jewish adults. Then I worked as a Jewish educator in San Francisco before I went to rabbinical school, first in Jerusalem and then in New York. I’ve now been in New York for over five years.

How did you come to the position you hold today?
I founded ImmerseNYC: A Community Mikveh Project because I believe that the mikveh ritual (immersing in a small pool of water) is one powerful, ancient Jewish response to our need to recognize, ritualize, and thus make sacred moments and experiences of transition on our journey. Finalizing a divorce, growing from a girl into a woman, commemorating the anniversary of a parent’s death, coming out, entering remission from cancer–all of these varied life experiences merit high-quality Jewish rituals that help us make meaning and find joy and assert Judaism’s relevance in our lives.

How did Trinity help guide you in your life?
First of all, I met my three closest friends and my husband at Trinity, so it is where I met the four people who are closest to me. I don’t know if I would have become a rabbi without Trinity. Before Trinity, I didn’t recognize that I was called to the work of becoming a Jewish leader. I don’t think Henry Zachs ’56 (as in the Zachs Hillel House) has any idea how much he has affected my life. Also, when it comes to the education and the quality of professors at Trinity, I think the College is unmatched.

What role do you think Hillel plays on college campuses across the country and at Trinity?
I think at its best, Hillel can serve as a home away from home. It’s a place where Jewish leaders guide you and help you continue your Jewish education. It’s where you can grow past your pediatric Jewish education and recognize how Judaism can be a part of your life going forward.

What do you hope to see from the upcoming generation of Jewish college students?
A hunger for Jewish connection–connection to text, prayer, or to other people. A recognition that Judaism is never static and has so many different opportunities to help you make the connections that will enrich your life. A willingness and desire to talk about God and what is sacred in our lives.