In my rabbinate, I have served a large congregation in a metropolitan area, small congregations in two small cities (one of them a state capital), and a small congregation in an area with many different towns and communities. While there were some differences in the scope my responsibilities in these positions, there is continuity between them regarding what I consider enjoyable and significant about who I am and what I do as a rabbi.
Relationships with members of all ages are central to my rabbinate. I try to treat everyone, from small children to veteran congregants, as individuals with whom I can establish a one-on-one connection. Through conversation, music, celebration, and offering support and encouragement at times of challenge, I hope to build ties that will last not only for a few moments, but for many years.
I seek to understand the customs and traditions that shaped the lives of Temple members. In most Reform congregations, there are families that include members who were born Jewish and as well as an adult who is not yet Jewish. Everyone who joins a Jewish congregation, whether as an individual or part of a family, makes a strong statement about being part of a kahal kadosh, a holy community. By respecting and exploring from whence members have come, I feel that they will be better able to join together on a path of discovery of new knowledge and a deeper sense of God’s presence.
Congregants who serve as Temple leaders, who participate in study groups and social justice efforts, who join in worship, and who take part in ongoing weekday programming, are my partners in Jewish life. They are my students, my teachers, my sounding boards, and my colleagues in improving and repairing our world along with people of all backgrounds and faiths, and my inspiration. A Temple community creates a context in which members can learn how to express Jewish values in all aspects of their lives. I am available to serve congregants as a guide and a companion in helping them find meanings in Judaism that resonate in their character and their soul.
Throughout the years of my rabbinate, I have found this statement from the Sayings of the Rabbis, Pirkei Avot, to be significant in all that I do: “ASEI L’CHA RAV – Find yourself a teacher – U-K’NEI L’CHA CHAVEIR – and get yourself a friend.” This quote primarily applied to a study setting. It does, however, direct all professional staff members and congregants to treat one another as friends, partners, and as keepers of a sacred heritage that can enrich our work and our leisure, our solitude and our time with family and community. By maintaining bonds of chavurah, fellowship, in congregational life, we enable one another to grow in faith and in spirit at times of sorrow and challenge and at moments of joy and accomplishment. This is my goal as a leader and member of any congregation.