Meet USF’s New Rabbi in Residence

She brings a fresh perspective to campus

By Samantha Bronson, USF News Posted Tue, 08/06/2019 - 16:52

For the first time in its 164-year history, the University of San Francisco has appointed a rabbi in residence. She can’t wait to get started.  

“I’m in a unique position to help foster more understanding between peoples who have historically greatly misunderstood one another,” Rabbi Camille Shira Angel said. “In an era when more and more people identify as having no religion, I have the opportunity to introduce an alternative reality as to what religion can look like and include.”

Angel, a ninth-generation rabbi who has taught at USF since 2017, began this week as the university’s Rabbi in Residence, a new position that is shared by University Ministry and the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice.

“Rabbi Angel’s joint appointment really models the spirit of inclusion, wholeness, and religious diversity that is at the heart of our work,” said Julie Dowd, director of University Ministry. “Camille herself embodies the university's values of hospitality, justice, and finding God in all things.”

Healing the World

Having Angel on staff elevates the work of University Ministry, Dowd said. “For example, the Jewish practice of tikkun olam, healing the world, is a beautiful addition to the phrases we use to describe and promote the Jesuit mission of USF.”

Before teaching at USF, Angel served as spiritual leader of Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City from 1995 to 2000, and of the LGBTQ Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco from 2000 to 2015. While there, she also edited and contributed to an inclusive prayer book, Siddur Sha’ar Zahav, published in 2009.

Angel also has written and published many articles about Judaism, feminism, and gender studies.

As Rabbi in Residence, Angel will continue to teach her popular Queering Religion course, which explores how LGBTQ people navigate religions that have often attempted to negate them. Though the course isn’t focused on Judaism — it covers the interaction between the LGBTQ communities and various faith traditions — it often serves as an introduction to Judaism for students because of Angel’s role as a rabbi.

“Most of my students aren’t Jewish,” Angel said. “Some have never met a Jew. Most of my students haven’t met a woman rabbi, let alone a lesbian rabbi who uses her own story as text. This opportunity enables me to share some of the ideas and strategies that Jews have used over centuries to navigate intolerance and to create something better.”

Spiritual Advice

In her new campus role, Angel will serve as a spiritual adviser to both Jewish and non-Jewish campus community members, with a special focus on LGBTQ members of campus. Within University Ministry, Angel will work with students to reinvigorate an annual LGBTQ and spirituality retreat.

Next year, she will offer a new community-engaged learning course that will help to support LGBTQ spirituality both on and off campus.

“She is a rabbi of and for the people, not for Jews only,” said Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, founding director of the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice.

On a personal level, Angel said her involvement with USF has renewed her passion for Judaism.

“Having the opportunity to share the genius of Judaism, the creativity, the commitment to repairing the world and the way we do that as Jews, having the opportunity to introduce these ideas to a student body that isn’t familiar with them, it’s renewed my deep love of my spiritual inheritance,” Angel said.

“I’ve always felt lucky, and now I’m the lucky rabbi of the University of San Francisco. There’s a lot we can learn together.”