Pressure to Perform, Space to Connect

Adolescence is rough. We have all been there, and we all survived the confusing hormonal tumult of rapid development, both physical and intellectual, with greater or lesser coefficients of personal friction throughout those years. We are all veterans of those awkward years, and seeing a new crop of young people marching inexorably into the fray might evoke visceral memories of…

The Necessity of Community

The next time you attend a Jewish event, you may want to play a fun, tongue-in-cheek game. Try to keep track of how many times the phrase “Jewish community” is said, in any context. You probably already know that it might be hard to keep track. All religious groups and peoples have communities, yet in ours the phrasing of it…

The Value of Lovingkindness

It feels like Thanksgiving. The smell of a delicious homemade meal waiting to be served. The way the community members sit around one long table as a family—supportive, respectful, and open to dialogue. The sound of voices together in song—Hine Ma Tovhas become a community favorite. The way we celebrate our blessings, grapple with injustice, and pray for peace. No…

A Plea to Heed Our Environmental Prophets

Charlotte woke up at 5:45am SMT (Standard Martian Time). She put on her kippah, and thetallitshe inherited from her great-grandfather. She carefully wrapped her tefillinand opened her siddurentitled, Sha’arei HaShamayyim, “The Gates of the Heavens.” She was ready by 6:00am SMT to daven shacharit. She had lived on Mars since she was in middle school, and she became more interested…

Teaching as Partnership

In my final year of sacred service learning, I’ve returned to the religious school classroom. Last I was here, a fledgling second-year, I faced many difficult challenges as a teacher, learner, and leader. Now I find that my work with young adults, most of whom are about to become Bnai Mitzvah, has transformed into a rewarding partnership. For the last…

Judaism and Postmodernism

Over the summer I was asked to come up with a new way of thinking about how to teach Jewish high school students. I had learned about an idea that came out of the Stanford Design School called “design thinking.” This is the process that helped create the iPhone Airbnb and is a prominent mode of development for Facebook and…

Shema and Its Blessings: A Creative Prayer Book

The fourth grade Hebrew school curriculum at Rockdale Temple focuses on learning prayers, specifically, the Shema and her blessings. Ideally, the students will be able to read and recite the prayers at the end of the year. But more than that, I hope they come away with an understanding of and sense of connection to the prayers. In trying to…

Creating a Community of Action

As a rabbinical student, one of my greatest aspirations is to learn how to build and strengthen communities. In many ways, my future rabbinate will be defined by my ability to create community and sustain it within the framework of my congregation. This past summer, I was gifted the opportunity to build a community where there was none. Partnering with…

Making Judaism Relevant in High School

Judaism offers a much-needed spiritual community and a place of belonging for high school students in particular. “How are you doing? What is new this week?” This is how I begin my class: with a short opportunity to debrief from the week. The responses are positive or negative—but, most importantly, they are honest. I ask this question because it is…

Teaching God on Their Terms

When I found out I would be teaching about God as part of my fellowship at Valley Temple, I was nervous. We started the year learning about prophets. Last semester we learned that a prophet is a messenger who has direct communication with God. This dovetails nicely with the second semester curriculum of God. I wondered, “How do I begin…

Middle Schoolers: A Reflection

If you had walked into my classroom on the morning of Sunday, February 11, you might have been surprised by what you’d seen. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Fifteen hands moved their pens on pieces of paper, focused on the material in front of them. No one whispered to their neighbor; no one absent-mindedly ripped…

Reenvisioning Success

I’ll be honest—when I was in college, I rarely stepped foot inside the Hillel building. I was always regularly involved with Jewish life by teaching Hebrew at the local synagogue, enjoying time with Jewish friends, and spending every summer at my Jewish summer camp, but I never found the time and motivation to experience Hillel in college, even though I…

Tetzaveh: A Tribute to Sharing Responsibility

Um… Mrs. Weisberg, I just want to let you know that I am probably going to be late for our Havdallah program because my family is going to do Havdallah at home first. It’s what we do every week. When I first heard this statement from one of the students in the midst of preparations for the third-grade class Havdallah…

Yes, Service and Learning

The Israelites prepared for the Exodus with gold and bread, not by learning how to swim. Despite a land-locked life, we are taught in the Babylonian Talmud that Nachshon walked up to his face in the water before it parted for the masses (b. Sota 37a). I felt similarly unprepared and submerged on my first day in the classroom and…

Creating Connections Early and Often

On the first Friday of every month while I was at university, my friends and I would hop into an Uber and head downtown to a banquet hall to join up with about one hundred other young professionals for the monthly “First Friday” Shabbat. Young Jews gathered together for a night of food, drinks, and schmoozing. There was no hidden…

Taking Turns

The Olympic Games inspire me. Athletes from around the globe exhibit the boundless capacity of the human body and spirit, competing yet also cooperating in the pursuit of excellence and accomplishment. The most impressive athletes, in my opinion, are those that return, making repeat showings from one set of Games to the next. These are the individuals so invested in…

God Talk and Sixth Graders

The best conversations I have about God are with eleven-year-olds. Unlike most theological conversations I have with adults, the students in these conversations speak without fear or anxiety about sharing their beliefs. Typical adult fears about discussing religion — sounding ignorant, seeming inconsistent, or offending someone — do not surface in our classroom discussions. The students are eager to share…

Being a Dad, Being a Rabbi

As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be like my dad. I started running because Dad was a runner. I love baseball because Dad loves baseball. And I wanted to help people for the same reason. As I went through school, though, it became apparent to me that I would not be exactly like Dad. He managed to…