Alumni Spotlight Profile

Micah Buck-Yael '04
Rabbi Micah Buck-Yael is a Community Chaplain with the St. Louis Jewish Family & Children's Service agency, was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary, and is a well-regarded authority about how to address the needs of LGBT members of the Jewish community.

Growing up in Washington, DC, Micah's family had a strong Jewish identity and was active in synagogue life. Micah was seeking a more complex and rich Jewish education, and so his parents enrolled him at CESJDS in the 7th grade and he was later followed by his sister, Claire Buck '09.

"I was immediately struck by how warm and welcoming the CESJDS community was," Micah recalls. "Educators, fellow students, and families all went out of their way to make new community members feel welcome and create a nurturing environment."

He recalls several outstanding members of the faculty who provided outstanding guidance and mentoring. Ms. Aileen Goldstein, now the Academic Dean, always encouraged thought-provoking and challenging conversation. Mr. Nick Miller, who just marked 30 years as a member of the faculty, always took time to listen and dependably provided helpful insight.

For Micah, the experience at CESJDS was transformational. "In all areas of study, we were given access to a huge wealth of information, and challenged to digest, evaluate, and synthesize that information into a personal worldview. Debate and disagreement were always part of how we learned to think." Through timeless Jewish teaching styles, "we were encouraged to dig through texts and values, and to apply them to the important questions of the real world."

Micah describes the trip to Israel and Eastern Europe as a phenomenal experience. "There is something incredibly special about the ways that we got to grow together, something unique about spending those months becoming young adults in a place so filled with Jewish history, life, and culture."

After CESJDS, Micah attended Washington University in St. Louis, initially interested in biology and genetics. He ended up taking on leadership roles in Jewish campus life, and in the end, majored in Islamic and Near Eastern Studies. From there, it was on to the Jewish Theological Seminary.

"When I was beginning to ask myself what it was that I wanted to do in the world, the Conservative Movement was wrestling with how to bring a religiously authentic voice to meet the real needs of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community. It was an odd experience - and not always a comfortable experience - to be both a participant and leader in religious community and a hot topic of religious debate. It became clear to me that I needed to bring my voice to the conversations happening within my Jewish community."

"My worldview as a rabbi is filtered through the values of community, holiness, and diversity that I was taught at CESJDS. Judaism has much to teach about elevating the communities in which we live by attending to the stunning diversity of humanity, and in responding to the call for justice for all members of our communities."

As a community chaplain, Micah provides spiritual care to many who are sick, isolated, in hospice, or simply in need of support. He lives in St. Louis with his wife Aviva and their two children Naftali and Yeshara.

Read more from Alumni Spotlights