Tacoma-raised rabbi lands coveted New York post

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A rabbi who was raised in Tacoma has been appointed senior rabbi of New York's Central Synagogue, one of the largest Reform congregations in North America.

The move, which has drawn attention from national media such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, marks another milestone for Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl, currently senior cantor at the Manhattan synagogue.

She's already the nation's first Asian-American rabbi.

Buchdahl, 41, who was born in South Korea, attended Tacoma schools and grew up at Temple Beth El in Tacoma.

"This is a prestigious position and a remarkable achievement for her," said Rabbi Bruce Kadden of Temple Beth El.

Buchdahl is the daughter of Fred and Sulja Warnick of Tacoma.

Her parents met in Korea. Buchdahl came to Tacoma at the age of 4 and was raised in her father's Jewish faith. Her mother is a Korean Buddhist.

Buchdahl attended McCarver Elementary, Jason Lee Middle and Stadium High schools. At Stadium, she was Associated Student Body president. She went on to earn her undergraduate degree at Yale University.

The board of Central Synagogue unanimously recommended Buchdahl for the position, effective summer 2014, according to the Jewish news agency JTA. Synagogue members are expected to approve her selection in January, JTA reported. She will replace Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, who is retiring.

Buchdahl has been senior cantor at the 2,400-member congregation since 2007. In that position, she sings liturgical music and leads prayer, among other duties.

She became a cantor in 1999 and a rabbi in the Reform movement in 2001, The New York Times reported.

In 2012, Buchdahl was featured in a PBS television genealogy series. She has been named in the Newsweek/Daily Beast annual list of the 50 most influential American rabbis, JTA said.

In a letter Wednesday announcing her appointment, Central Synagogue President David Edelson described Buchdahl as "one of the (Reform) movement's leading lights."

He said search committee members were "struck by the intellectual rigor and Jewish scholarship and insight that she brought to bear on virtually every topic we discussed."

Edelson also said Buchdahl will continue to sing at worship services.