Alumni Spotlight Profile

Sarah Bunin Benor '93
Sarah Benor is a sociolinguist and is Associate Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles.  She is also an award winning author.  Her recent work, Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism, was honored as the runner-up for the prestigious 2013 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

Sarah grew up in Rockville, MD, attending pre-school at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington and then entering CESJDS in Kindergarten.  She was joined at CESJDS by her two siblings, Aaron Benor ’99 and Miriam Benor ’97.

Sarah looks back on her years at CESJDS and sees very clearly how her career path is linked to her time here.  “I am so grateful for the experiences that I had at CESJDS.” She remembers many teachers fondly, especially Mrs. Ascher, Mrs. Moss, Mrs. Kobren, and Rabbi Reuven Greenvald. “Rabbi Bell taught us the sing-song intonation of Talmud study, something I mention in my book.”

After CESJDS, Sarah attended Columbia University where she studied comparative literature with a minor in linguistics, focusing on Yiddish.  For her post-graduate studies, Sarah attended Stanford University where she was also a Wexner Graduate Fellow.  

The pluralistic environment at CESJDS profoundly shaped Sarah’s view of Judaism and her own identity.  “I do not consider myself part of any one denomination.  Through my research and my background I have come to understand and embrace many types of Jewish life and practice.”  

Sarah served as an advisor for the recent Pew Research Survey: A Portrait of Jewish Americans.  The seminal study provides critical data about the current status and nature of the American Jewish community.  The information gathered from this work will be impactful for years to come.  “I have been speaking to so many people in the Jewish community about the study’s results.  I think that it is starting conversations about ways that we all can improve Jewish life.”

Sarah’s academic pursuits and successes exemplify one of the core precepts at CESJDS -Torah L’shmah – a pursuit of lifelong learning.  

Sarah lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and three children, who are enrolled at the Pressman Academy – a Jewish Day School that has much in common with CESJDS .

Read more from Alumni Spotlights