By Michael Sudhalter
puckmaren glass will have a busy schedule for the next few years.
glass is currently taking classes to prepare to start at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York.
“Five years from now, I’ll be a rabbi,” said glass, who is studying 3.5 hours of Talmud and 3.5 hours of Hebrew per day this summer.
glass, an agender, non-binary, trans person, will not have to search for a pulpit. They’ll already have one.
While they’re in rabbinical school, glass will return home to Fort Worth on a regular basis to help lead their new congregation, Makom Shelanu, which glass and Cantor Sheri Allen describe as an “inclusive affirming synagogue.”
glass said there are approximately 25 people attending Makom Shelanu’s once-per-month service. The congregation currently meets in the chapel of the First Congregational Church, which rents them the space free of charge.
“We’re not shy about social justice,” glass said. “We will have discussions about reproductive rights, racism, the LGBT community. We want to offer Judaism in a way that it’s not currently being offered.”
glass has traveled to Israel twice and they love the Jewish state. But they hope to see the rest of the country catch up to Tel Aviv in terms of tolerance for the LGBTQ+ community.
“Our congregation is really clear that Israel is our homeland,” glass said. “Israel has so much to offer the world and she has put so much good in the world. She needs to have some nudges in a way to value all people.”
glass will spend their third year of JTS living in Israel — something they are excited to experience.
Path to rabbinical school
glass, 32, was born female and raised Catholic in a small, conservative town in central Massachusetts.
They graduated from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, double majoring in music education and music therapy.
glass taught music in the Pittsburgh suburbs for a year before earning a master’s degree in music performance at the University of Missouri.
While in Missouri, they taught music education in and around the college town of Columbia.
glass was a member of Rockbridge Christian Church in Columbia, a Disciples of Christ church which they described as a “stunning place.”
glass described Rockbridge as an inclusive place of worship that supported their identity and ultimately their transition.
“Rockbridge is a church that values voices and what people bring to the community,” glass said. “They are intentional about including people and bring a colorful life to the world.”
When it was time to select a new name, they decided it may as well be a fun process.
They chose ‘puckmaren’ after a supporting character in the 1980s science fiction film “Flight of the Navigator” and glass after Philip Glass, a composer they admire.
“Church members came to court with me when I changed my name,” glass said. “They took care of me throughout the entire journey and gave more than I could ever give back to them.”
The lowercase spelling of their name dates back to something from glass’ undergraduate days in Pennsylvania.
“I had a professor who challenged us to think about G-d’s name and in the process, I decided the only name that should be capitalized is G-d’s name,” glass said. “I realized that I’m important, but not more important than anything else created in the world.”
glass enjoyed their experience at Rockbridge so much that it prompted them to apply to Texas Christian University’s Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth with the goal of becoming a pastor. They were accepted in 2019.
Brite was a good experience for glass and they graduated from the divinity school last December with an emphasis in Hebrew Bible.
During their time at Brite, glass met Allen — then the cantor and spiritual leader at Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington — at a Holocaust remembrance service. glass and Allen became friends and glass increasingly became more and more interested in Judaism.
“In divinity school, the professors ask us to think theologically and that led to Judaism,” glass said.
glass began attending Hebrew classes and shortly after came dressed as Mordecai for Purim, the only person in costume. The COVID-19 pandemic threw glass’ Judaic education a curveball but they were just as dedicated in attending services and taking classes virtually.
“Changing religions when you’re in school to become a pastor means changing your whole life,” glass said.
Allen said glass became committed to learning about Judaism.
“It was exciting to witness their journey from curiosity to commitment to conversion,” Allen said. “And it was quite impressive to watch them juggle their studies at Brite with their Jewish studies.”
glass went through the conversion process with Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, a rabbi in North Carolina who previously served Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville.
“He told me the things to learn and the books to read,” glass said. The conversion process was completed on Lev BaOmer in 2021, the day before Lag B’Omer. glass explained why they chose that particular date: It was the first Jewish holiday where they realized Judaism was for them.
“I watched a six-hour live stream of people cutting their hair and singing and playing music and shooting bow and arrows. There was teaching and laughing and learning and joy for this small holiday that is mostly midrash — joy for the sake of joy.”
Allen knows glass will become an excellent rabbi for Makom Shelanu and a wonderful leader for the faith community in Tarrant County.
“puck will make an incredible rabbi because they possess the qualities that define what it means to be a ‘good rabbi’ — excellent leadership skills, intelligence, courage, perseverance, strength, compassion and a love of Judaism that encompasses always learning more, questioning more and digging deep beyond the surface of the obvious. puck will challenge their congregants to look at Torah (and life) in new, exciting ways.”
Cytron-Walker agreed with Allen’s assessment of glass’ future.
“puck is an amazing individual — passionate, thoughtful, wise and deeply committed to the Jewish people,” Cytron-Walker said. “I could not be more excited to learn that puck will become a rabbinic colleague. I have every confidence they will continue to be a blessing for our community.”