Category: From the Fellows

Encounters with God and the Other in Sacred Service

As a TJF fellow during the summer of 2016, I helped Hillel at Miami University prepare for its yearly open house, held during the university’s Alumni Weekend. Instead of creating programs, I tried to foster relationships and empower alumni to reconnect with their time as Jewish students at Miami University. Hillel staff and I displayed newspapers that featured Jewish life…

Growing into the Role of Rabbi

In reflecting on this summer, I came upon Sanhedrin 5a, where the rabbis question the authority of a person’s judgment. The gemara mentions a situation where Mar Zutra made a bad verdict on a case where he might not have had proper authority. His poor judgment could have resulted in one party being unjustly damaged. He appears before Rabbi Joseph,…

Our Online Hebrew Learning Community

“Where’s Michael tonight?” “His mom let me know that he’s going to be absent, he won’t be here.” “Awww man. WAIT IS HE OK?” “Yes, yes, he’s fine. Calm down. He has a soccer game and will do his make up work after class.” “Ok, phew. Well too bad he won’t be on my Hebrew baseball team tonight.” “Ok everyone.…

God Speaks from the Whirlwind

When I was asked to co-teach a combined seventh and eighth grade class, I was excited for the chance to share my Jewish knowledge with the next generation of Jews. Little did I know that, having been asked to teach about hot button issues through a Jewish lens, 2016’s tumultuous political environment would provide more material than I would know…

But from My Students More Than from Them All

R. Chanina said: I have learned much from my teachers, and from my colleagues more than from my teachers, but from my students more than from them all. (Talmud Taanit 7b) This year I have had the privilege of being the Education Fellow at Temple Sholom in Cincinnati, Ohio. Under the leadership of Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp, this congregation is forging…

Making Education a Spiritual Journey

I have found that as I continue down my rabbinical path, the idea of bringing spirituality and Judaism into the lives of my students is more and more important. I have served at Miami University Hillel in Oxford, Ohio and found that Hillel is often one of the only opportunities for students to express their Judaism openly and honestly, in…

What Makes Service Sacred?

I walked into the large meeting tent on the first day of Camp @ the J and was greeted by sea of eager faces. I saw the faces of campers from five years old to fifteen who were excited to start their summer, the faces of high school and college students who were ready for the long and rewarding days…

The Need for the Synagogue Model

We as Reform Jews have for generations called our synagogues “Temples.” This is an ideological statement that confirms our existence as Jews in the modern world — that we are not a community in exile, but that we, the Jewish people, can exist wholly within and as an active part of the larger society which exists today. As Reform Jews,…

We Need Nothing Less Than Passion

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about what should be the single most important attribute in the way we approach our rabbinate. Every time I contemplate this, I come to the same answer: passion. My fellowship with Kulanu, the Reform Community High School, just confirmed the paramount importance of this attribute. During my past year as a fellow, I…

Do Not Throw Me Away in My Old Age

My twelfth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Gazzola, asked my class: “Have you ever looked closely at the hands of the elderly? Have you ever stopped and noticed every line — every mark — every wrinkle?” Think about the ocean of experience the elderly have to share. Think about the diverse array of individuals they have met — the lessons they have…

The Oven of Miami

In a famous Talmudic scene from Bava Metzia (59a–b), the Oven of Achnai, the great sages of the rabbinic period are split in debate. Speaking for the minority position is Rabbi Eliezer, who is so certain of his point that he is capable of invoking the natural world as his witnesses and he even receives a divine pronouncement validating him.…

Relationships and Connections

Culture thrives on connection. From the sanctuary to the boardroom, we human beings depend on interpersonal relationships to understand our place in the world, to pursue collaborative endeavors, and to realize our individual ambitions. In that vein, I have a confession to make. I’m a young(-ish) Jewish professional, an about-to-be-ordained rabbi who has worked in a variety of roles and…

Social Media and Misinformation in an Election Cycle

My semester as a fellow at Kulanu—Cincinnati’s Reform Jewish High School coincided with the 2016 presidential election cycle. Coincident with the election cycle the school’s director asked me to develop a semester-long curriculum around social media based on a two-session elective class that I had taught in a synagogue religious school setting. The director wanted to offer a course that…

Place of Business

It is easiest to remember something when you are in the same place you learned it. This is known as the psychological principle of context-dependent memory, and it helps explain why it is so much harder to recognize a colleague from work when you see them at the grocery store. The location of learning embeds cues about the content, but…

Finding Our Jewish Roots in the Past

A young person in the sixth grade is beginning to gain a sense of their own personal identity. As their ability to process the world around them expands, so too does their ability to explore beyond what they may be told by a parent or teacher and discover what is meaningful to them. Personal connection is paramount when it comes…

Jewish Identity in a Time of Anxiety

This is my third year as a fellow with the students at Kulanu: Cincinnati’s Reform Jewish High School, and I’ve reached the point where everyone but the seniors are kids I taught in ninth grade seminar. I feel like I know so many of them, and it’s been a joy to walk with them through such formative years of their…

Bringing Light into Lives This Holiday Season

Our Sages taught: Gemilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness) are greater than tzedekah (charity) in three ways: Acts of loving kindness need not involve money because can be extended to both the rich and the poor, the opportunity for acts of loving kindness go beyond the earthly realm, and we can engage in acts of loving kindness toward both the…

Tu Bishvat: Sowing the Seeds of Peace

I was told on more than one occasion growing up that Tu Bishvat was “the Jewish Earth Day” and “a Jewish Hippie Holiday.” I was therefore surprised to learn years later that Tu Bishvat actually had some of its roots in war. One of the major tannaitic sources for this beautiful celebration comes from Deuteronomy 20:19–20, which reads: When in…

Creating Community at the Shabbat Dinner Table

I remember a symposium that took place during my year in Israel (2012–13) on the HUC-JIR Jerusalem campus. The subject of the two-day conference was a relatively recent and unfamiliar Hebrew word for a familiar and well-founded idea: עמּיות (amiyut), or ‘peoplehood’. The discussion made me realize that the Jewish people have many different notions of what it means to…