Honoring Rabbi Anson Laytner

Written by Kristina Alvarado
March 23, 2015

Over three decades and across a variety of roles, Rabbi Anson Laytner has been an integral member of Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry faculty and staff as well as both community partner and liaison. Three years ago, Anson transitioned out of retirement to come on board as the school?s Program Manager for Interreligious Dialogue, a special program funded by the very selective Henry Luce Foundation. In his role, Anson worked closely with Dr. Michael Trice, the school?s Assistant Dean of Ecumenical & Interreligious Dialogue--designing and implementing interfaith programming for students, faculty, staff, and the broader Puget Sound region. Anson was no stranger to the classroom, as he continued to offer guest lectures on interreligious topics in courses in this staff role?having served as adjunct faculty for both undergraduate and graduate students at Seattle University over the years.

Now after making great strides in his role to further the school?s deep commitment to interfaith work, Anson is officially retiring. If you have spent any time with Anson, you know that he is an incredibly down-to-earth and eclectic person. We honor and celebrate Anson for who he is, and all that he has actively and proactively contributed to the school and university community.

Far before it was a cultural trend and a recognized must for seminaries and schools of theology, Anson committed his time and passion to warm and winsome collaboration with people across faiths--writing grants, directing programs, and sitting in coffee shops and over dinner with conservative and reformed Jews, Muslims, Christians, the spiritual-but-not-religious, and secular alike. Anson has walked alongside many in their journey of discovering how to become a person of strong religious faith that encounters, befriends and learns from people of other traditions. ?He was a fellow with the World Affairs Council, and has authored books and articles over the years?including ?Arguing with God? with Jason Aronson, Inc. publishers. Having spent time living in China and studying Mandarin as a part of his undergraduate degree, Anson has a great love and passion for the history and role of Jewish people groups in China, and consequently brings a true global awareness to everything he does and all the conversations he has. He is also an alum of Seattle University?having completed his MA in Nonprofit Leadership in ?96. Anson has taught courses, served on academic communities, and championed innovative approaches to the study and consideration of relevant world issues, from an interfaith perspective.

Only having served for one year as a congregational rabbi, Anson has dedicated his life to activity outside of the walls of the temple, including in the Jewish community. From working as a chaplain, to directing the community relations arm of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, to serving as executive director of Multifaith Works?an agency that provides subsidized housing and supportive services to people with AIDS and other life-threatening diseases, Anson has tried his hand at just about every type of work for the common good in Seattle and King County.

We sat down with Anson this month to talk about this transition, and he had some beautiful words to share with the school and university community.

?Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry is such a unique institution. ?So different from my rabbinical seminary experience! There (and back then), we were considered empty vessels to be filled with information, with never a thought about formation and personal-professional development. Here at the school, the emphasis is on formation first and information second?on character and spiritual development. ?What a change for the better! ?I am inspired by what I observe every day. I can honestly say that working here has been a career highlight. ?I got to work in a field I love and to do some community building and research, writing and teaching?all fun and no drudgery. What a great way to end my rabbinical career: working at an ecumenical Christian theological school at a Jesuit university. ?If my mother were alive she?d say, ?It hurts my head to think about it.? Thank you all?students, staff, faculty and community volunteers?for making my time here so meaningful. I?ll still be around; so don?t be a stranger!?

We honor and celebrate the life and work of Rabbi Anson Laytner. You will be missed, Anson, but we hope wonderful things for you and your beautiful fiance? Richelle in this new season of your life.?