Talking with #MakeItHappen Micro Grant Recipient Sarah Tasman!

  • Team Schusterman

January 24, 2014

Rabbi Sarah Tasman is a trans-denominational community rabbi and Jewish educator in New Haven, CT. As the founder of New Haven Rosh Chodesh, she loves incorporating art, spirituality and yoga into her young adult programming.  Sarah's idea to start a Havdalah yoga practice was recently chosen to receive a $1,000 #MakeItHappen micro grant! To read more about her project and to volunteer to help her #MakeItHappen visit Sarah’s idea page.

What inspired you to apply for a #MakeItHappen micro grant and what do you hope it will achieve? After attending Diane Bloomfield's TorahYoga retreat last summer, I gave my Rosh Hashanah sermon on Judaism, yoga, and embodied spiritual practice. Community members were asking me for Jewish Yoga opportunities in New Haven, so I decided to apply for this grant to provide a chance to young Jewish adults to continue the conversation about how to bridge our Jewish identities and our yoga practices. I hope to give participants an opportunity for personal reflection and learning, creative expression and practice, and to allow them a chance to think about connecting yoga and Judaism to their lives.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? My husband. He has way more energy in the morning than I do.

What is one change you want to see in the world? This is the hardest question of the interview. I'd like to see more emotional and spiritual healing, starting with individuals, then families, communities and reaching out from there.

What is the biggest risk you have taken and how did it pay off? Moving to New Haven upon graduation from Rabbinical School for my husband to get his MBA at Yale with no full time rabbi job prospects in the area was probably the biggest risk I've taken so far. I ended up leading high holiday services at Yale, and was able to nurture and support the creation of a dynamic and innovative Jewish learning community that I called New Haven Rosh Chodesh. I also completed a certificate of Non-Profit Management and I am now pursuing my own yoga teacher certification. What I thought was a huge career risk in not securing a "typical" rabbi job right out of school allowed me to be innovative, resilient and to create my own rabbinate.

Have you ever failed before and what lessons did you learn?   As Aaliyah says, "If at first you don't succeed, brush yourself off and try again." My yoga practice has taught me to breathe through challenging situations, to be kinder to myself when I am frustrated and remind myself that it's all part of the process of growing and evolving. I used to practice jiu jitsu which also taught me to get creative and to transform what I originally thought were my weakness into what became my strengths and assets.

Who are your heroes? People who do difficult things with ease and grace and can teach others to do that too.

Where do you find solitude?   In savasana (final relaxation pose at the end of a yoga class) or in the silent prayer of the Amidah. Or at Walden Pond.

Where do you find community? In potluck shabbat dinners with classmates and neighbors, in seeing smiles on the faces of the people who I have come to know each week at yoga class, in having a conversation over a cup of coffee, in making a commitment to show up for something on a regular basis, in being vulnerable to ask for help, in welcoming others to town even when I've only lived here a year myself. Those are just a few.

If you had to give up one modern convenience what would it be and why? I would give up my coffee maker because I secretly know that making each cup by hand using the "pour-over" method makes a better cup.

What is your favorite Jewish memory?   When I was 16, I went to Israel for the first time with 60 of my closest friends from camp on the NFTY-Exodus trip. Since I had not been given a Hebrew name as a baby, throughout my time in Israel I was "looking" for my Hebrew name and trying on different ones. Finally, I realized that I needed to stop looking and that the right one would come to me on its own. In a very powerful and intense experience at the Kotel, I remember feeling God was cradling me there and gave me a special name.

The Schusterman Philanthropic Network is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.