Narrative Summary Interview with Rabbi Barbara Block by Asja Lazarevic

Narrative Summary
Interview with Rabbi Barbara Block by Asja Lazarevic
At the beginning of the interview, Rabbi Barbara Block talks about her religious
education and her experiences of growing up as a child of Holocaust survivors. Although her
mother was religious, her father was Jewish, but an atheist who sent her to religious school in
order for her to know what she is rejecting, and was a bit surprised when Ms. Block in fact did
not reject religion. There were times when she had hard time connecting with the established
Jewish community, but she never had doubt about being Jewish. Being a child of refugees from
the Holocaust, it never crossed her mind to walk away from Judaism. Talking about what is
Judaism, she said that for her it is much more than just a religion, it is a civilization, a cultural
and ethnic identity.
She says that, at that time in the U.S. between 1950s and 70s, expectations of girls and
boys were different and gender roles were very much alive. At the age of 10, her parents told her
she would not have Bat Mitzvah because it was not important for girls. Although they expected
of her to take her education seriously, they were not so worried about her career as they thought
that she will get married. In religious life, all Rabbis she knew were men, and it did not occur to
her that she could be a Rabbi until she experienced woman leading the services. She enrolled at
the Rabbinical school at the age of 50. As that was in 2000s, half of her class were women and
there were not any gender based obstacles she experienced on her journey of becoming a Rabbi.
She says that growing up feeling very different, she has great empathy for all outsiders,
for Blacks, gays and lesbians, for single people. Her religious views very much impact her
political views. She thinks that social justice is in the core of Judaism. She argues for public
healthcare, and especially for the public education. She is a strong supporter of separation of
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church and state, and thinks that her passion for justice and emphasis on the community comes
from Judaism. Of course, that does not mean that people from other traditions cannot have those
Being Jewish, she has relatives all over the world who escaped from the Holocaust, but
she has a strong American identity. She experienced anti-semitic words during life. Sometimes
she had fear of being recognized as a Jew, and links that to being a child of her parents who
escaped from Europe. She is informed about anti-semitic incidents in the U.S. and around the
world and does not understand how her Christian friends can be totally oblivious to the fact that
the myths about Jews are still very much alive and make scapegoats of Jewish people. She had
an opportunity to visit Europe and listen to her mother’s stories about Nazis marching into her
hometown, and is well aware that Jewish people still need protection as they are in danger.
She says that today a lot of people cloak their anti-semitism by pointing at Israel and even
dare to ask her “Why are you doing that to Palestinians?” as if she was personally responsible
for, the perceived, as she says, actions of Israeli state. She sees that Christians, because they are
the most powerful group, easily escape those kind of generalizations and questions. No one asks
Christians in the U.S. “Why did you kill all those Muslims in Bosnia?” and no one holds them
responsible for the actions of Christians around the world. At the end of the interview, we talked
a bit more about Christian privilege, comparing it to the white privilege, and about the danger of
collective identities.
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Religious Lives of Ozarks Women