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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.
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.
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
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
- 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