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…

Religion and State: Bridging the Gap

During my year in Israel, I was assigned to lead morning services on a Thursday in November. It wasn’t just any Thursday—it was the Thursday morning after the 2016 presidential election. Leading that service was just the beginning of what has become an important endeavor of mine. I’ve been trying to find meaning in my Reform Jewish tradition, all while…

Torah and Jewish Leadership

Torah has a deep relationship with Jewish leadership, yet both of these terms resist precise definition.[I] In this brief essay, I will use the term Torahto designate what James Kugel defines as “the very essence of Judaism.”[ii] As for the term Jewish leadership, I will follow Erica Brown, who writes: The definition that may best suit the Jewish community is…

Hear, O Israel, Speak, O Israel: Reflections on Theological Dialogue

  שמע ישראל ה’ אלוהינו ה’ אחד “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” The first line of the Shema is often considered to be the cornerstone of Jewish faith. These words are repeated throughout our weekday and Shabbat liturgies. They are the first words that cross many Jewish lips every morning and the last words they utter…

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…