Meet Rabbi Sarah Tasman, Federation’s Director of Jewish Journeys and Engagement

Photo of Rabbi Sarah TasmanA long-time engagement professional in the Jewish communal world, Rabbi Sarah Tasman brings a multitude of experiences and perspectives into her work, integrating creativity, healing, and spiritual practice. A native of Louisville, KY, Rabbi Tasman is making an impact in Jewish Greater Washington and beyond. In May, 2022, Rabbi Tasman traveled alongside Federation CEO, Gil Preuss, and several of Greater Washington’s local rabbis as a leader of Federation’s Rabbis Mission to Israel.

Tell us about your background.  

I grew up in Louisville, KY where I was very active in our synagogue. I also served as youth group president and on our NFTY-Ohio Valley Regional Board. I spent many summers as a camper and staff at Goldman Union Camp Institute, which instilled in me a love of experiential education and helping others connect with Judaism in a way that is personally relevant and inspiring. As the daughter of a psychiatrist and an artist, I have always loved the integration of creativity, healing, and spiritual practice, leading to my degree in Art & Ideas in the Humanities at the University of Michigan. I received rabbinic ordination from a pluralistic institution, the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College, and have served as a community rabbi in synagogues, educational institutions, and Hillels. In 2017, I launched The Tasman Center for Jewish Creativity to provide experiential spiritual workshops, gatherings, and coaching to those looking to access meaningful, personalized, and innovative Jewish learning opportunities.

What attracted you to the role of Federation’s Director of Jewish Journeys and Engagement? 

Firstly, the job title. When I saw it, I thought to myself that this is perfect way to bring together the different parts of my career path that brought me to this moment. I have been an engagement professional for over 20 years supporting individuals, couples, and families connect with Jewish life, with a special focus on helping interfaith couples and those new to Judaism. Having previously worked closely with Federation as the Interfaith Family/DC director, I knew that this role would allow me to work closely with and to support the Jewish professionals in our community who are shaping Jewish life in Greater Washington. I was also very inspired by Federation’s vision of vibrant Jewish life, which continues to inspire me in my role leading our Community Vibrancy team.

What drew you to working in the Jewish communal world? 

All of the experiences I had growing up – family holiday celebrations, my bat mitzvah, summers at camp, going on a NFTY Israel trip as a teen, and taking on leaderships roles in my temple as a high schooler and in college – had a profound impact on my desire to become a rabbi and Jewish communal professional. For as long as I can remember, I have loved creating meaningful experiences for myself and my peers, and reaching out to those who are less connected to see what would be interesting and valuable for them. These opportunities throughout my life shaped and influenced me deeply.

What do you see as the greatest opportunity to grow the Community Vibrancy Department (your role/department/etc.)?  

Earlier this year, Federation published its Community Report on the Vibrant Jewish Life study as a vision and framework to align our work and values. I see my role as not only supporting our Community Vibrancy team in our community in engagement, but also to work collaboratively with our other departments at Federation. I am proud that our work with congregations, clergy, Jewish educators, Jewish outreach professionals, Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) and our other organizational partners is intentional, impactful, and collaborative.

What are you most excited about as you dive into your role?  

So many things! Working closely with an amazing team at Federation, providing a unique perspective to internal conversations and culture as a pluralistic creative rabbi, and deepening relationships with clergy and Jewish professionals who work with individuals, couples, and families along their Jewish journeys. Making sure that we support and empower individuals, couples, and families at key inflection points in their lives and connect them to the diverse and vibrant Jewish professionals and communal resources is central to my personal mission as a community rabbi and, now, in my new role at Federation.

What do you like to do in your time away from the office? 

I love making art – whether it’s a collage, creating a tiny blessing book with a personal prayer inside, or painting – I have always enjoyed the meditative “flow state” that I get into when I am working with my materials and art supplies.  I also enjoy reading, especially food memoirs and listening to audio book autobiographies. My husband and I enjoy going to outdoor concerts in the summertime and taking our 18- month- old son, Griffin, on walks and adventures.

Do you have any mentors in your professional life? 

I do have mentors and love them dearly. Some of them I have known since high school, including a former guidance counselor who is now an interfaith chaplain and educator, and they have been very inspirational and supportive of me then and continue to be now. In rabbinical school, having teachers, mentors, and internship supervisors who were invested in my personal and professional growth was also deeply encouraging and empowering. I also have formed some more recent professional mentorship relationships that were very important for me in transitioning into this new phase of my career. I am a big fan of coaching and have had several incredible coaches and spiritual directors in my life, including one I have worked with for over a decade.

Tell us about an achievement (personal or professional) that you’re proud of. 

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and after many years of leading my own retreats and workshops, I launched my own organization called The Tasman Center for Jewish Creativity to provide more access to Jewish spiritual learning and creative expression in our community. During the pandemic, we were able to nimbly pivot to online gatherings, asynchronous classes, and put my recorded meditations, teachings, and beautifully designed workbooks online. Creating a virtual resource library of my body of work also allows more people to access these kinds of spiritual tools for at-home personal practice.