The (Student) Rabbi

Once upon a summer fellowship, I opted for an office over worship

In service of the Jewish families, in a cubicle on the JCC’s second floor.

While I sat at an aged desktop, suddenly a coworker had made a quick stop

As to ask me to provide a service or maybe something more.

“I suppose I can help you,” I said, “that is indeed what I’m here for.”

Research, coffee, and plenty more.


Ah, distinctly I recall, months before we entered fall

I’d had to choose a fellowship, at Jan’s implore.

“Community,” he’d requested, “surely something interested.

There’s so much in our community, something out there will not bore

For the fellowship that promises to supplement the curriculum’s core.”

Service learning’s something more.


Enthralled I was from the very start, a flutter flapping in my heart;

Thrilled I was to have a badge, a ticket through the security door.

A someone, I was, greeted daily as I entered from the parking lot:—

“Good to see you again, good morning, there’s two gates—choose either or.

Employees left, visitors right, if your badge won’t swipe, fret no more—

We’ve seen you struggle with it before.”


Still I fretted, concerned that I had not been fully vetted

To prevent a scene or spare the guests from tragedy and gore.

But after all it was only me, as clear as day they all could see,

So they granted me access to the entrance floor.

“Thank you kindly, I’ll get it some day, after I have practiced more.

Perhaps I’ll have more luck with the office door.”


Wondered, I did, what chore was waiting, but time was short—no hesitating.

The pressing need to help the sick, the needy, aged, young, and poor.

To my boss I hadn’t spoken, and now my laptop was completely broken,

And tech support would respond “eventually,” to be sure.

It did not seem to be a rain, but a torrential downpour.

240 hours there and maybe more?


“While you’re sitting, meekly fretting, we’ve got speakers who need vetting,”

Said my boss, who’d silently entered behind me on the floor.

“Certainly,” I said, at her mention, snapping quickly to attention.

“Let me see then what I can find; that’s what Google’s for.

I’ll stop procrastinating for something more fascinating: that’s what Google’s for.—

It’s full of speakers galore.”


Threw up my hands and said “Oy vey,” finding a speaker Chabad would okay.

There I found an expert whose YouTube page was no bore.

Of his views he made no pretense, and yet I could not find offense:

A heady mix of humor, then some halakha and Chassidic lore.

He spoke harsh of iffy parents, giving them a stern what for,

Snarked and scoffed, and held the floor.


Now for the progressive Jews I’d have to find an equally enthralling mind;

Perhaps an Oprah, or a Choprah, fresh from a new book tour.

The audience’d be in thrall, but no space could hold them all.

And when she saw their price tag, my boss’ jaw hit the floor.

“Tell me what the budget is and I’ll find someone for sure.”

“Be sure you do and nothing more.”


Much time I spent planning an event

To take place there when I was no more.

By then my schedule was already full

And looked to engage me till Yom Kippur.

They asked after my eight weeks, what about another four?

Then the (student) Rabbi said “Nevermore.”


Now this fellow with my task was flattered still that they would ask

For me to continue, was an honor he could not have asked for.

Nothing against you, for heaven’s sake, but I really need a break.

When my time here ends, I must leave you as my predecessors did before,

Lest you think that there’s anything here I abhor.

Indeed the (student) Rabbi said “Nevermore.”


Stunned by the realization that I soon would be on vacation,

“To work,” I said, knowing too quickly I would be out the door.

The end to my time service learning with a candle at both ends burning

Renewed our fervor and focused my time and energy like never before,

Using my time now like it was a precious ore.

And later? Nevermore.


But the largest project found was still sitting on the ground.

Now they knew how motivated I was and in need of no implore,

And so suddenly I hopped to it, to see how other agencies do it.

I think my desk chair may have burned rubber on the office floor,

Showing what was going on when in my mind and my core,

Meant the (student) Rabbi “Evermore.”


This I sat in engaged and typing, soon to the Ravs I would be hyping

A set of lectures they could publicize upon their Temple door;

This, as far as we could see, was needed in the community.

We’ll bring the Jews all together, after all, what’s an agency for?

Divided from Amberley Village to Plum Street to Sycamore.

Now will press, or Nevermore.


Knowing we did and acting with intention to rectify what the Pew did mention

In facts and figures and infographics galore,

“Nones, we need you,” we have cried, your status deified.

Jews, though unaffiliated, we need you all once more.

Lest our membership numbers keep plummeting to the floor.

Quoth the (student) Rabbi “Nevermore.”


What needs they have…perhaps our programming could be a salve.

That and a lovely bit of nosh could get them in the door.

Without a minyan they call theirs, they’re often caught all unawares.

“Pay your dues or you will lose,” had been the only option put to the fore.

Quoth the (student) Rabbi “Nevermore.”


Bring them together for a lecture on neutral prefecture,

And no one will feel out of place, of this it will ensure.

The synagogues as sponsors, all, and people just might heed that call,

Looking for some learning, community, and something more.

Perhaps a support group can grow where now our response is quite poor.

Quoth the (student) Rabbi “Invite some more.”


My last task was counseling, answering a client’s ring.

For some who would tolerate a social worker’s visit no more.

“Send me a rabbi to talk with me, I’m a lonely Jew you see.”

Nearest I was to that you see, so they sent me to their door.

But neither was a Hebrew and it’s still unclear what they wanted a rabbi for.

Quoth the (student) Rabbi “Nevermore.”


And the (student) Rabbi finished his service, still wary and maybe nervous,

Wondering if he could have done a little more

In his summer fellowship placement, wondering where all the days went,

Though he learned more about what’s going on than he ever knew before.

And having completed my time and with the fellowship money no more,

Shall be so enlisted-Evermore!


Benjamin Zober (with help from my lyrical chevruta, Edgar Allan Poe)

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