Chaplaincy during COVID

The dining room opened yesterday at the Seasons, a senior living facility. This statement may seem pretty mundane. You might assume that it was closed for renovation, or that it had just been cleaned, in which case this would not be a noteworthy event. But this is a noteworthy event, because the dining room has been closed for six weeks. It reopened…

Teaching Torah Trope in a Virtual World

Last summer, as I prepared to begin my TJF fellowship at Rockdale Temple’s religious school, I reflected on what skills and strengths I could bring to my teaching role. I have several years of religious school teaching experience under my belt already, I wrote and implemented a curriculum for seventh graders at camp, I love working with middle schoolers, and…

What Mick Jagger Taught Me About Teaching Torah to First Graders

One of my biggest role models as I taught first grade at Rockwern Academy this year has been Mick Jagger. Adam Morgan, in his book A Beautiful Constraint, recounts the story of how the Rolling Stones first started out. They performed in small venues, and Jagger had very little room to move around. Unable to pace around the stage, Jagger used…

A Chaplain in Training

This year as a part of my fourth-year rabbinical training, I participated in a Clinical Pastoral Education program—CPE for short. The goal of this program was to train me in pastoral care and give me experiences that would let me put my ongoing training to use. I had three field placements in addition to three full weeks of being on…

Inclusion and Belonging: Teaching High Schoolers to Use Their Voices

Inclusion is an open ear, but belonging is having a real voice. According to Shelly Christensen, author of From Longing to Belonging: A Practical Guide to Including People with Disabilities and Mental Health Conditions in Your Faith Community, “Belonging is based on relationships within the community that encourage and empower people with disabilities and mental health conditions to participate like anyone…

A Recipe for Teaching Sifrei Kodesh

How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? A few months ago, I began my sixth grade religious school class by asking my students this question while presenting sandwich-making materials to my computer camera. They instructed me to put the peanut butter on the bread. So, as they said, I put my unopened jar of peanut butter on…

To Each Person Belongs a Name

To say that 2020 threw us all a curveball would be the understatement of the century. While I originally had grand plans to undertake my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, I found myself home in Australia with my family in the midst of the global health crisis caused by COVID-19. The time difference meant that visiting hospitals, being in…

Mi ʾAnochi: Who Am I to Do This Work?

A small piece of stained-glass Judaica hangs in my window—a fiery mix of reds, oranges, and yellows. As the sunlight streams in, the glass casts flaming pools of color onto my desk and books, a brilliant yet watered-down version of the burning bush Moses saw deep in our Jewish past. That story of wonderous revelation is an incredible moment to…

A Shabbat Mindset

There is a great deal we do as rabbinical students to understand and prepare for Shabbat. We study why we light two candles on Shabbat and what prayers to recite and songs to sing. We contemplate what it means for us to really rest for one day of the week. At the root of Shabbat, though, is community. In 2020,…

You Shall Be a Light unto the Nations | לאור גויים להיות

Each summer, third-year rabbinical students at HUC engage in a fellowship, working for various foundations and synagogues, serving as teachers and Jewish leaders in the communities they serve. This summer, I took a different route: I spent the summer in Montgomery, Alabama, beginning my service as a chaplain candidate for the United States Air Force (USAF). This meant that, for…

A Lesson from My Rabbi

When I learned that I would have the pleasure to serve a second summer as Rockdale Temple’s Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati rabbinic fellow, I was beyond excited for the opportunity. I foresaw a summer leading prayer and learning alongside the fabulously gifted Rabbi Meredith Kahan, while Senior Rabbi Sissy Coran enjoyed a much deserved sabbatical. Sadly, that summer would never…

Putting Relationships First

The summer of 2020 was our first summer of coronavirus. I was scheduled to be the Jewish Foundation (TJF) intern working with the chaplain at the Cedar Village assisted living community. As I set up the project, I envisioned sitting with the residents, learning their stories, and recording their favorite meals and memories. The summer was planned to culminate with…

Abundance in Community

There was a village on the bank of a river. One day, a young girl saw a baby floating downstream. She immediately rescued the child and brought him to the village leaders. The next day, two babies were found. Then three the next day. Then four, five, six. Soon, the river was flooded with babies, and the village mobilized to…

From Ordinary to Extraordinary: When Work Complements Life

This past summer, I learned what it means to have a vocation—not just any job, but one that truly satisfies. A fulfillment of calling.  From May through August of 2019, I had the privilege of serving as the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati rabbinic fellow at Valley Temple in Wyoming, Ohio. With the guidance of the senior rabbi there, Rabbi Sandford Kopnick, I…

Dungeons & Dragons, Passover, and Jewish Education

Every year as spring rolls around, we gather together to celebrate Pesach—the transition from winter to spring, from death to rebirth, from slavery to freedom. At this time, Jews all over the world come together to celebrate our ancestors’ exodus from Egypt by way of sharing a ritualistic meal with one another, a seder. Through this shared meal, we retell…

Jewish History Jumping out of the Classroom

Biblical times to modern day Israel—that was the syllabus I was handed for my Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati fellowship at Isaac M. Wise Temple. While I love history, teaching all of Jewish history in the course of a year felt overwhelming. I was happy to work with my education director at Wise and the other sixth grade teacher in trying…

From Disability to Discovery

Like all good Jewish children should, I call my mother often. Our usual chats, often car-bound, touch on the usual suspects: work, family, and the state of the world. We talk so often that our conversations seem to blend together. I love talking to my mother, but I couldn’t recall the majority of our conversations if my life depended on…

Multi-Experiential Activities Are Not Multi-Tasking

This past school year, I served with Rockdale Temple’s Rak Noar class as their Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati fellow. Alongside a very experienced educator, I taught a classroom full of seventh and eighth graders. Engaging with a classroom of B’nai mitzvah–age teens has been a completely new experience for me. As a second-career rabbinic student, and coming from a smaller southern synagogue…

We Can’t Fix Everything

Setting: A Torah study group at a long-term senior residence in Cincinnati. Harriet: I wish more people joined us today. But people forget we’re meeting. People here forget everything. There are so many people who are forgetting their memories. Me: That sounds really hard. Shirley: People forget things, but there are so many people here with interesting stories. I just…

ללמד ולאהוב — L’lamed V’le’ehov — To Teach And To Love

ואהבת את ה׳ אלוהיך בכל לבבך, ובכל נפשך, ובכל מאודך—“And you shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” — Deuteronomy 6:5 I love to teach—with all my heart, soul, and might. And I love my kids, the students I teach. There is nothing more magical than the moments when…