Notes from a Chaplain

I serve as chaplain in a private, prestigious and fast paced school for seventh through twelfth graders. My work has a wide range and includes some activities that seem rabbinate-y and others that are less obvious. These include: designing and teaching a required eighth-grade course on health; designing and coordinating a cutting-edge substance education program for our community; sponsoring a…

Spirituality Meets Entrepreneurship

My first memories are of camping in Yosemite and Big Sur. I grew up backpacking in the Sierra, but when I made Aliyah, I left the outdoors behind for an observant Jewish life in Jerusalem as I studied, four years in yeshiva and then HUC in Israel. All that changed while I worked as the program director at Kol HaNeshama.…

On and Off the Bimah: A Rabbinate of Both

For the first five years of my rabbinate, I served as a congregational rabbi in a large suburban synagogue — and I loved it. Now, I am the Senior Engagement Officer at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and I love this too. A rabbinate doesn’t have to be solely on or off the bimah; mine has been both. Staying…

I Took the One Less Traveled By

My rabbinate has been unlike most. In my HUC interview, I stated that my intention was to be become a camp director in the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. At that time, youth work was not viewed too seriously at the College. Nevertheless, I was accepted and thrived during my time studying in Jerusalem and Cincinnati. During my third year,…

A Woman of Valour

“A woman of valour who can find? For her price is far above rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10 JPS) Eshet Hayil, A Woman of Valour,” the acrostic poem found in Proverbs 31, is a Jewish expression of appreciation for women. In many Jewish households these words are sung every Friday night, and they are also commonly sung to a bride during her…

A Community Rabbi for A New Community

I remember sitting in my rabbinical school interview in New York and someone around the table asked me why I wanted to become a rabbi since I had just completed a Master’s Degree in Jewish education and had worked in the field only for a few years. I explained that I hoped to become a rabbi/educator one day and to…

HUC and Rabbinic Leadership Beyond the Pulpit

Nine years into my rabbinate, I find myself as the dean and rabbi of Auburn Seminary in New York. We equip leaders for faith-rooted social justice work. Without degrees, students, or faculty, we raise and spend $7 million a year to train and support thousands of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and anyone else who is bringing a…

Ever-Reforming: Educational Technology and the Changing Rabbi

In the early 1800s, the blackboard was an innovative technology that forever changed the way in which students interacted with the teacher and material in the classroom. Now a blackboard or dry-erase board is a clue that you have walked into a classroom. This technology changed the physical space as well as teaching model in classrooms around the world. Of…

Helping Our Youngest Jews Find Meaning in Music

The music that we hear often influences, whether consciously or not, the emotions that we feel at any given time. Music that is upbeat and in a major key suggests emotions such as joy and satisfaction. A slower tempo and a minor key make us more likely to feel such emotions as sadness or sorrow What happens when we hear…

Teaching Midrash in the Reform Sunday School Setting

The study of rabbinic text is essential to not only understanding Jewish tradition but also developing Jewish identity. Studies in Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash force us to struggle with the reality of being Jewish just as our early sages did long ago. Facing complicated circumstances, our sages had to develop a mindset to ensure the continued transmission of faith, knowledge,…

Teaching Interfaith Cooperation: An Example of Service-Learning as Ethical Learning

I disagree with the ethic undergirding the oft-quoted rabbinic aphorism “the study of Torah is equal to them all” (Mishnah Peah 1:1). I disagree because the rabbis articulate in this statement a worldview in which “[l]earning Torah was…the supreme commandment.”[1] Chaim Stern in Gates of Prayer amended “the study of Torah is equal to them all” to read “‘the study…

Making Jewish History Come Alive

What is your favorite memory from your childhood related to Judaism? Is it your mother lighting Shabbat candles? Is it your grandfather leading the seder? The feeling of hot dripping wax from the Hanukkiah on your fingers? Whatever it is, my guess is it is not from Sunday school. Why is that? Well, many of our Jewish memories are based…

A Spring Reflection on a Year of Service

Arise my beloved, my fair one, come away! For now the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The blossoms have appeared in the land, the time of singing has come, and the song of the turtledove is heard in our land. The green figs form on the fig tree, the vines in blossom give off fragrance. Arise,…

When Race is only for Blacks: Unpacking Identity as a Means to Inclusion

“It was for this reason that man was first created as one person: to promote peace among the creations, that no man would say to his friend, ‘My ancestors are greater than yours’” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). This summer I had the privilege of visiting Camp Bechol Lashon in Petaluma, California. As a summer camp for Jews of color, Bechol Lashon…

Listening and Responding: Learning to Teach

I have taught first grade at a Sunday school for four years. Each year started off the same. I would meet with the director of education and talk about the curriculum for that year and the overarching classroom themes. I would spend some time exploring and setting up my classroom, and then plunge headfirst into teaching Judaism to children. At…

Mi She Nichnas Adar

Last year around this time, about a foot of snow fell in Jerusalem. The streets were silent and the city was shut down. It was Rosh Hodesh Adar, the first day of the month of Adar. Every month, I would celebrate Rosh Hodesh with Women of the Wall. My roommate and I looked out our window to the snow covered…