Mira Rivera, 58, pathbreaking rabbi


Rabbi Mira Rivera grew up in the Philippines under the care of her maternal grandmother. After a career dancing with the Martha Graham Dance Company, she became the first Filipina-American to be ordained at The Jewish Theological Seminary. After four years at Romemu, a popular Jewish Renewal congregation on New York’s Upper West Side, Rivera — who lives on the Upper West Side and who works tirelessly to build community among Jews of Color — recently joined the JCC Harlem as their first rabbi-in-residence, where she is developing monthly Shabbat services, generating leadership opportunities for Jews of Color and building community in a way that reflects the complexity of Harlem. She is also rabbi-in-residence nationally for The LUNAR Collective, the only organization by and for Asian American Jews.

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How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?

My melanin, accent and how I present as a Filipina-American woman in Jewish spaces shapes how that world perceives me. My proud identification of my ethnicity is one way that I acknowledge my privilege. I hope to counter the erasure experienced by [my] siblings from the Philippines who are deeply embedded in Israeli families and diaspora Jewish worlds as caregivers to elders and ailing people.

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Do you have a favorite inspiring quote?

“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same… One becomes in some area an athlete of God.” — Martha Graham

What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?

Shop from Zabars and Fairway; bring people and picnic in Central Park.

What is your favorite book about New York?

“Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898” by Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace

What are three spots in NYC that all Jewish New Yorkers should visit?

Riverside Park overlooking the Hudson River on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah for tashlich. Park in Chinatown early in the morning when elders are practicing Tai Chi — may our Jewish communities attain serenity and balance like that! Any rally organized by Jews for Racial & Economic Justice.

What was your best experience as a Jewish New Yorker?

Meeting Yavilah McCoy for the first time on Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 14, 2017 at JCC Harlem.

How can people follow you online?

My website and on Facebook

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