Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl, an innovative worship leader and the first Asian American to be ordained as a cantor or rabbi in North America, will be the speaker for the Baccalaureate celebration during 2023 Commencement Weekend at Stanford.

Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl portrait

Angela Warnick Buchdahl is senior rabbi at the Central Synagogue in New York City. (Image credit: Lorin Klaris Photography)

Baccalaureate, a multifaith celebration for graduating students, as well as family members, friends, and others across the campus community, will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 17, in Frost Amphitheater. The university’s 132nd Commencement ceremony will be held the following day.

Buchdahl, the daughter of an American Jew and Korean Buddhist immigrant, in 2014 became senior rabbi and the first woman to lead the historic Central Synagogue in New York City, one of the largest in North America.

“The breadth of Rabbi Buchdahl’s perspective will be well suited for our beautifully diverse religious and spiritual community at Stanford,” said Tiffany Steinwert, dean for religious and spiritual life at Stanford. “Her family heritage is both Jewish and Buddhist, Korean and American, and she leads a diverse, inclusive congregation, where she is known for the innovations and openness she brings to ministry and worship. Her intersectional identities will be especially meaningful in light of the bias experienced by various racial, ethnic, and religious groups on campus in recent months.”

Baccalaureate is organized by the Office for Religious & Spiritual Life and led by students. The service includes readings, prayers, and lively music that reflect the wide range of religious traditions found at Stanford. Details will be announced in the coming weeks for the contest to select a student or students to speak at the service.

“We are so excited to welcome Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl to our Baccalaureate ceremony. Rabbi Buchdahl has been one of the most influential rabbis in America, the first Asian American to be ordained as a rabbi, and the first Asian American and first woman to lead the Central Synagogue in New York City,” said senior class presidents Alison Cohen, Nicolas Garcia, Ecy King, and Grant Sheen. “In a year that has seen a troubling number of antisemitic incidents occur on campus, we appreciate the elevation of Jewish voices in our class celebration. We look forward to the valuable perspective Rabbi Buchdahl, as a pioneer and trailblazer in the Jewish faith, will bring to our class.”

Buchdahl, who was featured on the PBS “Finding Your Roots” program in 2012, “in many ways … symbolizes the rapidly changing face of the 21st-century rabbinate,” according to the Forward newspaper. She was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to Tacoma, Washington, her father’s hometown, at age 4. She earned a BA in religious studies from Yale University, spending summers as song leader at religious camp in Saratoga, California, before enrolling in rabbinical school. She was invested as a cantor (who sings and leads prayers) in 1999 and ordained as a rabbi (who serves as teacher and spiritual leader) in 2001 by the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

“I am deeply honored to address the graduating Class of 2023 at Stanford, my father’s and sister’s alma mater,” Buchdahl said. “It is a privilege to root this milestone ritual moment with a Baccalaureate address of gratitude, reflection, and spiritual celebration.”

The Baccalaureate service will be from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 17, in Frost Amphitheater. The next day, Stanford tennis great John McEnroe will speak during the Commencement ceremony in Stanford Stadium. More details are available on the Commencement Weekend website.