Rabbi Jacob Staub serves as professor and spiritual director at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Staub was born in 1951 in New York City to an Orthodox Jewish family. He attended an Orthodox Jewish day school, and remembers having a crisis of belief at the age of twelve right before his bar mitzvah. After becoming a bar mitzvah he left the Orthodox world, and through young adulthood he struggled deeply with his spiritual and religious beliefs. He was an atheist for a period of that time, until he felt could not separate himself from Judaism, and his Jewish identity.
As a poet and a writer, after completing high school he went on to study English and Medieval Jewish philosophy and commentary. He graduated with a B.A from the State University of New York in 1972.
He then earned a masters degree in religion 1975, and received a Ph.D. in Medieval Jewish Philosophy from Temple University in 1980. He studied at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) from 1972 to 1977, and was ordained in 1977. He served as an assistant professor at Lafayette College from 1977-1982, and was awarded a post-doctoral grant at Washington University from 1982-83.
He reflects that he did not enter rabbinical school with the focus only on becoming a congregational rabbi, but instead understood this period of his studies as an opportunity to literally reconstruct everything that he had been taught and ingrained in him about Judaism. At RRC, Judaism is studied as the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people rather than as a divinely revealed system that doesn’t change. Thus he was able to reclaim the riches of Jewish tradition while adapting them to speak to contemporary values.
In 1983 Rabbi Staub joined the faculty of RRC and currently chairs the department of Medieval Jewish Civilization. He also served as Vice President and Academic Dean of RRC from 1987 to 2004.
When Rabbi Staub arrived in 1983, RRC faculty was in a process of discernment on whether to adopt non-discrimination policies for faculty and students regarding sexual orientation. The non-discrimination policy officially passed at the college in 1984,after which there followed a multi-year process of changing the culture of the RRC and the Reconstructionist movement. Over the next fifteen years, Rabbi Staub worked on a series of different committees and working groups at RRC brought people together to shift the culture of the rabbinical college, and to address how the school needed to change socially and structurally to include and affirm its lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer students.
In 2000 Rabbi Staub came out as a gay, and began to participate in workshops and mentorship programs for LGBQ people and religious leaders. He met his husband Michael Spitko in 2005 and in 2009 had a joyous, “huge Jewish wedding with over 25 rabbis in attendance”. They were able to obtain civil marriage from the state in 2011 in New York.
Rabbi Staub is in the faculty of Nehirim (www.nehirim.org), a U.S national group of LGBT Jews, allies and families, that honored him with its annual Anpin Nehirin (Radiant Face) award in 2013 for his service. Jacob founded and directed Nehirim’s Shalshelet mentoring program, has led workshops in such topics as Writing Queer Midrash and Queering Spiritual Direction, and offered individual counseling. He leads contemplative Shabbat retreats, leads study groups, and has taught an RRC course in Queering Jewish Studies. He was Conference Spiritual Director for the Annual International Conference of Spiritual Directors International in 2008. In addition to this he is a prolific poet and writer contributing to many different publications including Torah Queeries (http://www.keshetonline.org/product/torah-queeries-weekly-commentaries-on-the-hebrew-bible).
He currently teaches for various spiritual direction & directors programs; .He co-chairs the current initiatives for RRC’s Transgender and Gender Variant working group to be more inclusive and affirming for Transgender and Gender Variant students and staff.
Rabbi Staub blogs on the The First Day website: www.firstdaypress.org
(This biographical statement written by Sonny Duncan from an interview with Jacob Staub.)
Biography Date: January, 2014
Jewish (Reconstructionist) | Author/editor | Clergy Activist | Theology | Pennsylvania | Philadelphia