Seated cross-legged in the sunny backyard of her north Oakland home, wearing loose, tie-dyed pants, beads around her neck, her hair in tousled braids and sipping kombucha tea — her drum is tucked away for now — Taya Shere brings a few different stereotypes to mind: Hippie. Earth mother. Hebrew priestess.
Hebrew priestess? It might not be a familiar archetype, but it is an absolutely accurate term, says Shere. No one bestowed this title upon her at birth; she grew up in Washington, D.C., where she attended a Reform synagogue with her family and genuinely liked going to services. She even relished the study that led up to her bat mitzvah.
But at 16 or 17, something changed. “From that age on, up through college, I was really beginning to question the patriarchy and the hierarchies that I saw in the Jewish tradition,” says Shere, 37, who recently moved to Oakland from the D.C. area. She says she felt a true spiritual hunger and found herself “wrestling deeply with finding God … I just couldn’t find what I was looking for in Judaism.”