Introducing Evan Traylor

Introducing Evan Traylor, 2024 Summer Rabbinic Intern

By Steven R. Weisman

Every path to the commitment required of a rabbinical student is unique, but the one taken by Evan Traylor is especially unusual. Evan came of age in Oklahoma City, where his family’s small Reform synagogue was established in 1903, four years before Oklahoma became a state.

“My religious school class was only 12 or 15 students,” he says. “When it’s that size, it really matters that people show up. From that experience, I got from my parents the importance of being part of a loving and grounded Jewish community that was instrumental to my becoming a rabbi.”

This summer Evan has joined Temple Micah as its Tisch/Star Fellowship rabbinic intern, after which he returns to Hebrew Union College (HUC) in New York for his last year before graduation and ordination. Evan identifies as Black and Jewish, and a Jew of Color—his father’s ancestors experienced the horrors of slavery in North Carolina and his mother’s forebears escaped the Holocaust in Europe. His father, a physical therapy professor, was “Christian-ish” growing up in rural Oklahoma, but Evan was raised in a Jewish home with his brother.

As a teenager, Evan became increasingly involved with Jewish youth groups, summer camps and other organizations while pursuing studies in political science, Jewish studies, and leadership studies at the University of Kansas. An internship in the Washington, DC, public school system, inspired by the call to service of President Barack Obama, eventually convinced him that his emotional calling was spiritual, not politics or public policy, though Evan’s wife Lindsey Benjamin remains a public-school teacher in New York.

At Kansas, Evan had written an undergraduate thesis on Jewish “white flight” from cities to suburbs after World War II. After graduation, he joined the Union of Reform Judaism, working in New York and Washington with students and young adults, with “a big focus on ‘audacious hospitality,’ changing the structures of Jewish life that keep people with marginal identities away from Jewish structure.” He has served as North American president of NFTY, the Reform movement’s youth organization, and started his studies at HUC in 2020, online, at the height of COVID, mostly with professors based in Jerusalem.

While living in Washington some years ago, Evan visited Temple Micah a few times and has been recruited to serve as rabbinic intern by Rabbi Larry Hoffman, who runs the Tisch program and is a longtime friend of Temple Micah. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have cantors or rabbis who looked like me,” Evan says. “If we want to build a Jewish community as strong as possible, broad representation has to be part of it.”

A sermon by Evan posted on his website seems to summarize his approach to Judaism: “With hope, we will celebrate the truly inspiring diversity of our Jewish community. With hope, Israelis and Palestinians will know a true and lasting peace. With hope, we will protect immigrants and refugees, and we will end the plague of gun violence in this country. With hope, young Jews will continue leading our community and world in remarkable ways. And with hope, we will empathize, organize, and mobilize to make our wildest dreams come true.”

Skip to content