Rabbi Kerry Chaplin has been selected to be the new Rose and Irving Rachlin Director for Jewish Student Life, responsible for religious, spiritual, and cultural leadership of Jewish student life at the college. She begins her position in mid-August.
This month Chaplin will receive her Master of Arts in Rabbinic Studies and her Rabbinic Ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, CA. For the past two years she has also been Rabbinic Intern for the Hillel Foundation at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “During my time at Hillel UCLA, I worked to re-lay a foundation for meaningful egalitarian prayer life, creating a prayer environment in which students felt comfortable enough to feel connected and uncomfortable enough to grow," Chaplin observed.
Chaplin’s own relationship with Judaism and Jewishness is anchored in tradition while evolving towards what’s next. She has created an innovative curriculum for Talmud study, and written about relationship-building between descendants of Holocaust victims and perpetrators. While a student at the Ziegler School, she has also been a fellow at NewGround, a Muslim-Jewish dialogue group.
Additionally Chaplin brings community-organizing experience to the rabbinate. Before attending the Ziegler School, she served as Interfaith Organizer and then Interfaith Organizing Director at California Faith for Equality, an organization that educates faith communities to promote LGBT equality and religious freedom.
“Our entire search committee was impressed by the thoughtful way Kerry Chaplin puts her knowledge and passion for Jewish learning to creative use,” observed Rev. Dr. Samuel Speers, Director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, and Assistant Dean for Campus Life and Diversity. “Her creative approach to conflict transformation and relationship-building in diverse communities is grounded in characteristically Jewish ways of making hope practical.”
In her overall role for the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Rabbi Chaplin will balance her primary commitments to Jewish student life with general college responsibilities for inter-religious programming, advising, and mentorship. The RSL Office regularly partners with the ALANA Center, International Student Services, LGBTQ Center, and Women’s Center, each of which is part of the college’s larger Office of Campus Life and Diversity.
Chaplin earned both her B.A. in Religious Studies (with a minor in Hebrew) and M.A. in Non-Profit Management from Washington University in St. Louis.
Rev. Speers chaired the search committee for the new Rachlin Director, which included: Peter Antelyes, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Jewish Studies Program; junior Samantha Basch, a former vice-president of the Vassar Jewish Union; Wendy Freedman, Director of Psychological Services and an advisory committee member for the Bayit, Vassar’s Jewish student life center; sophomore Abigail Johnson, the incoming president of the Vassar Jewish Union; Julian Williams, Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action; and Debra Zeifman, Professor and Chair of Psychology, and former director of the Jewish Studies Program.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.