Israel and Its Many Narratives

Israel has always been important to me, but living in Jerusalem during my first year of rabbinical school deepened my connection to the land and the people. Working for the Cincinnati Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) this past summer allowed me to expand my knowledge of modern Israel and hone my skills in teaching and talking about this complicated place.…

Emunah and Avodah: Joining Belief and Action in Sacred Work

On the last day of his life, as the Israelites are preparing to enter the Promised Land without him, Moses offers his final teachings and directives to the Jewish people. He assures the Israelites that Torah—and the teachings and commandments contained therein—is not beyond them to uphold after he leaves them. Torah doesn’t live in the heavens and it isn’t…

Avodat HaKodesh

It was our Sage Hillel who taught us al tifros min hatzibbur  “do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirkei Avot 2:4). I was certainly glad to be part of a community this past summer at Congregation Adath Israel here in Cincinnati, Ohio. Community was truly the focus of my eight-week fellowship with this community, as I and, it seemed, the other…

Creating Community and Communities for All

This past summer I was fortunate to be able to work with the Jewish Family Service of Cincinnati (JFS). While many organizations focus on a specific area or type of Jewish communal work, the JFS’s efforts are broad and often help segments of the Jewish community that are rarely prioritized and often forgotten. JFS programs help serve and bring together,…

Expect the Unexpected

I walk into the classroom, all eyes on me. I remind myself that I have done this before, and that I am prepared. Little did I know at that moment the challenges I would face and the obstacles I would have to overcome. This year, as a TJF Fellow, I was placed at Rockdale Temple in their Rak Noar program.…

Paying it Forward: The Power of Mentors

My journey to rabbinical school began with a meaningful and impactful conversation with my mentor, Rabbi Educator Vicki L. Tuckman, z”l. After a long day at summer camp, we found ourselves sitting on her cabin porch around midnight as the stars rose over the Mahoning Valley. I remember her exact words: “You’re going to be a rabbi—you just don’t know it yet.”…

Who Am I? What Are We About?

The first time I stepped into a hospital room as a chaplain, I lasted about 90 seconds. The conversation was kind but awkward—I offered my well-wishes for a speedy recovery and invited myself out the door. I was convinced that this was going to be one of the most difficult summers of my life. But Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) surprised…

Theory in Practice

It does not matter what you say or how you say it; rather, it matters how it is received. —Rabbi Yaacov Leider The relationship between an educator and a learner is built upon the ability of the educator to effectively communicate material, emotion, and passion to their learners. The role of the educator is to foster and maintain among their…

Learning to Live Jewishly

When I began my year of teaching at Temple Sholom’s Religious School, I was nervous. It was my first time teaching in a classroom setting, and I was assigned to teach the post–B’nai Mitzvah class with students ranging from seventh to ninth grade. I felt unprepared to teach them but excited to try. For the first class I decided to…

All in a Row: Organization, Logistics, and Leadership

On paper it is easy. Make a list of what was needed, then do it. Contact a few people, make sure everything was set up in the right place—pretty straightforward. But I never had to plan an event before. I have done programing, certainly, but I have never had to handle logistics, or ensure that speakers were present and all…

The Paradox of Teaching

Over this past year, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching Hebrew and Judaic studies to kindergarten and third-grade students in my role as a TJF Fellow at Rockwern Academy in Cincinnati. As I was teaching, I was also reading Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach in the education seminar at HUC-JIR. In thisimportant work on education, Palmeroutlines six paradoxes of teaching, four of…

Think, Feel, Do: Jewish Curriculum Design

When I began my TJF fellowship at the Jarson Education Center two years ago, I took one look at the booklet containing grade topics for the entire school and offered, out of pure insanity, to work with the religious school director to write curricula for grades 2–5. In retrospect, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. A…

Journeys and Transitions: Creating Consistency for Patients

As a rabbinic student chaplain for both Christ Hospital and University Hospital in Cincinnati, I have the opportunity to visit with patients on a weekly basis. Because my visits are infrequent, I often don’t get to see patients more than once. But about a month ago, I encountered a patient who had been hit by a car while he was…

Memory Keeper(s)

The past is present. Or so we attempt to ensure with each dive into tradition on Jewish holidays like Pesach. By reenacting the history of our people through the Seder we close the gap of time and space, making possible the embodied memories of exodus, Sinai, and divine encounter. This is one motivation for religious ritual and prayer—using the same…

Друзья—Druz’ya—Friends

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are gray.” The words of this well-known song surrounded us as I, the volunteer, helped my partner, the artist, sit at a round table covered in art supplies. As the voices in the social hall continued, I placed an artist’s apron over her head and a matching…

Telling Our Stories

Some of my fondest memories of rabbis involve stories. When I was younger, on Shabbat evenings we would sit by the medurah, the campfire, at GUCI and listen as Rabbi Ron Klotz walked slowly around it and told another story about the Ba’al Shem Tov. Sundays during religious school Rabbis Mark Levin and Vered Harris told stories about Honi the…

The Citizenship of the Heart

Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him. (Exodus 25:2 NJPS) The buzz of activity on the lower floor of the synagogue echoed that occurring amidst the trees that enveloped Congregation Beth Adam’s Loveland address with their summertime susurrus. As the local fauna—insect, avian, and otherwise—took…

Come as You Are

The sun was shining bright as my friend and I walked loops in the park, rehashing a traumatic loss she’d experienced only months before. The exuberant shouts of children playing on a playground nearby could not permeate her grief. As we talked about self-care and what might help her in this moment, I asked, “How has it been for you…

Creating a Chag Community—Yamah Vakedmah Tzafonah Vanegbah

Vesamachta bechagecha—And you shall rejoice on your festival day. (Deuteronomy 16:14) Being a student at a Jewish day school includes extra days off school for chagim—not only the high holidays, but also chagim such as Sukkot, Pesach, and Shavuot. In many cases, rather than a time for the school to come together, the chagim are a time when the students…

Linking Our Past and Our Future

This past summer, I worked at the Holocaust and Humanity Center in Cincinnati. I translated, from Russian into English, the witness testimonies of local Holocaust survivors from the former Soviet Union. The aged often struggle with a host of debilitating ailments that not only can diminish short-term memory but also may erase memories reaching back to childhood. It was remarkable…