Rabbi Dr. Laura Duhan-Kaplan

Laura Duhan-Kaplan

Director, Inter-religious Studies | Professor of Jewish Studies

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal

Phone: 604-827-4742

Email: ldkaplan (at) vst (dot) edu


Rabbi Dr. Laura Duhan-Kaplan holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Brandeis University, Ph.D. in Philosophy and Education from Claremont Graduate University, Rabbinic Ordination from ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, and Graduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction from the Vancouver School of Theology.

She is Rabbi Emerita of Or Shalom Synagogue in Vancouver and Professor Emerita of Philosophy at UNC Charlotte.

Rabbi Laura received many teaching awards, including the American Academy of Religion’s Katie Geneva Cannon Award for Excellence in Teaching, American Association of Philosophy Teachers Award, Carnegie Foundation’s U.S. Professor of the Year, UNC Board of Governor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence.

Rabbi Laura is author or editor of ten books. Recently, she authored Mouth of the Donkey: Re-imagining Biblical Animals (Cascade, 2021) and The Infinity Inside: Jewish Spiritual Practice Through a Multi-Faith Lens (Albion-Andalus, 2019). Recent co-edited projects include Encountering the Other: Christian and Multi-faith Perspectives (Wipf & Stock, 2020) with Dr. Harry Maier and Spirit of Reconciliation: A Multi-faith Resource (Canadian Race Relations Foundation, 2020) with Dr. Ray Aldred.

Locally, Rabbi Laura is a popular lecturer, retreat leader, and synagogue prayer leader. She loves to bring people together for dialogue and discussion. Each year at VST, she hosts an Inter-Religious conference on a theme of public concern. Recently, she was honoured with a Visioneers Lifetime Achievement Award for Peace and Community Well-Being.

Rabbi Laura, a dual Canadian-American citizen, grew up in New York City. She is married to psychologist Charles Kaplan. Together they are musical partners in the band Sulam, parents of two young adults, and caretakers of a changing array of companion animals.


Educational Background
While I am Jewish by formation, practice, and ethnicity, my education has been eclectic. Three graduate degrees, a graduate diploma and a professional certificate introduced me to multiple spiritual paths: Western philosophy, Jewish rabbinics, Christian spiritual direction, Jungian psychology, and Ayurvedic yoga. In my interdisciplinary Ph.D. dissertation, I argued for broad definitions of critical thinking, including reasoned argumentation, political critique, and metaphorical creativity.

Area of teaching specialty?
Inter-Religious Studies, where we explore Abrahamic and Indigenous traditions from multiple theological perspectives. Jewish Studies, where I introduce midrashic (traditional Jewish) principles of Biblical interpretation and kabbalistic (mystical) perspectives on spirituality.  

What makes you passionate about teaching?
I love to teach because I love to learn with students. I understand learning as both “making the strange familiar” and “making the familiar strange” – integrating new information and seeing from new perspectives. Our heart commitments deepen through intellectual examination, and our intellects come to greater life when feelings illuminate ideas. As we reach towards and beyond the previous boundaries of our thought, we glimpse the greater consciousness of God.

What inspires you about teaching at VST specifically?
At VST, students and faculty share an ecumenical adventure. We cross denominational and faith languages to discuss multiple perspectives on God, social change, and spiritual community. We educate the whole person, working on thought, feeling, and practice. 

What kind of student do you love having in your class?
I love a diverse group, including research, ministry, and pastoral leadership students. When three different approaches meet in a classroom, we all find something challenging. By sharing the challenge, we contribute to mind-opening moments, develop empathy, and grow in our spiritual capacities.


Current academic projects?
Currently, I am letting go of the familiar to move into uncharted inter-religious territory. My study of animals in Hebrew Bible is nearly complete. Beginning with the spring 2016 “Encountering the Other” project, I am now facilitating inter-religious scholarship, offering VST as a think tank for scholars, activists and artists.

What do you see the future holding for you in your academic profession?
Because I work at the margins between disciplines and religious traditions, I expect creative tension, challenging me to grow in knowledge and empathy.

What challenges do students face today that may represent new challenges with respect to changes in practices of education?
We have to be fluent in multiple technologies of communication: written books and papers, oral storytelling, and new digital platforms. In a sense, we must “learn how to learn” again.

What gives you hope for church?
Many Christians are leading advocates for peace and justice. Across denominational lines, they work to heal rifts between Abrahamic religions, and advance Canadian Indigenous reconciliation. Peace is a face of God; through this work, God’s face shines.

What advice or guidance would you give to students thinking about coming to VST?
You will change more than you imagined possible; be flexible. You’ll be treated like an adult; be organized. You’ll find some things challenging; be communicative. You’ll become part of a lifelong network of people; be friendly. You’ll grow in spirit; pray.