Rabbi Andrea Kuti
I joined the Aleph rabbinical program from Cape Town, South Africa, where I’ve raised my family for the past seventeen years. Originally from Hungary, I was born during the Communist era. My childhood, in a countryside town near Budapest, was seemingly idyllic—joyful games with neighborhood children, parents well-known and loved. However, at the age of ten, I uncovered a profound family secret: we were Jewish.
The revelation shattered my perception of normalcy. The song I proudly -though without understanding – sang to my Mom was anti-Semitic, the churches in town were not ‘ours,’ and the ‘theater’ that evoked grief was, in fact, the Dohany Street synagogue in Budapest. This newfound awareness marked the beginning of a silence, a necessity to keep our Jewish identity hidden for safety, even four decades after the Holocaust.
Hungary lacked resources for Jewish learning at the time, and it felt being Jewish meant only to carry the heavy burden of the trauma from the past. I wanted a way out. Yet I had a sense of my ancestors – I yearned to hear them and understand more about my heritage. I dedicated a year to Jewish learning at Pardes in Jerusalem. The experience was transformative; literature came alive, forming a multidimensional, relevant. art that built a community. I returned with a renewed commitment, vowing never to part with my spiritual inheritance.
The last time I prepared to stand under the chuppah was at my wedding. I felt that the union with my husband in marriage should be an incubator of our unrevealed potentials, talents and voices. So, instead of changing my surname, and with it, losing part of my identity and history, I kept my surname and added two of my previously, ‘secretly’ chosen Biblical names: Devorah, a wise woman leader and Shulamit, who is the lover in Song of Songs, the sexiest holiest piece of Jewish literature, to my Jewish name, Chanah. My name became: Chana Devorah Shulamit bat Yosef u’Malka. And a new essence emerged by the acronym: Chadash!, meaning “New”!
My children gave me precious new names—Ama and Mom. Now, standing under the chuppah again, I am moved to receive a name for which I’ve yearned for 24 years: Rabbi. The journey, longer for a woman from Hungary, unfolds with excitement and gratitude.My contribution to Judaism centers on viewing the old with fresh eyes, living what Rav Kook taught :הישן יתחדש והחדש יתקדש “The old will be renewed, and the new will be sanctified.”
I express gratitude to my ancestors for building this beautiful tradition and guiding me. My parents for choosing life and love when it seemed almost impossible. My sister, living in an orthodox community, for always inspiring and supporting my journey to become a rabbi. My husband who walked beside me, creating and living rituals, and fundraised for my studies. My children who endured countless evenings of me in Zoom classes over the past 5.5 years.
Acknowledgements extend to my sponsors for making my studies possible, chavrutahs worldwide, for making rigorous studies a joyous adventure, to teachers for guiding me to new depths, communities for shaping my journey to becoming a rabbi.
To friends, mentors worldwide, Mashpia Rabbi Phyllis Ocean Berman and DOS Rabbi Natan Margalit who held me through good and challenging times to get here. To beautiful Nature that grounds and reminds me of wholesomeness that we nearly forgot. And lastly, gratitude goes to the Source of All Life, Breath, Mysteries, Love, and Renewal.