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…

Hearing Our Story in Their Stories

As the Social Justice Fellow for Temple Sholom, I have been a part of a congregation whose commitment to its community is felt throughout the city. So it was little surprise that I found myself sitting in the Clifton Mosque, surrounded by Jews, Muslims, Christians, and members of almost every other faith tradition in the city. In all, over 150…

When My Students Became My Teachers

Ben Zoma said, “Who is wise? The one who learns from everyone, as it is said; ‘From all who would teach me, have I gained understanding.’” [Ps 119:99] — Pirke Avot 4:1 As a teacher I often find that well-known quotes have a basis in something much older. The common phrase “and the student becomes the teacher” is seen in…

Thank Goodness for Mistakes

The first big programming event I led as a rabbinic intern at Congregation Beth Adam was a mixer with fourteen-year-old Israeli scouts and their Beth Adam host families. The goal of the evening was to help the Israelis get to know the Americans as well as introduce them to both American Judaism and Beth Adam Judaism, which is its own…

Ask the Question

What happens when we ask a question? A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting in the Teller Lounge on the historic Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion with an Episcopal priest and a Muslim university chaplain — me in leggings and a denim shirt, the priest in a tweed suit, and the chaplain in a brightly…

Searching, Creating, and Finding Community in Cincinnati

I will go to just about any event that offers free food. The College-Institute advertises a lunch and learn with free food; I am one of the first RSVPs. The synagogue plans to run an evening meet and greet with light hors d’oeuvres; I am the first to volunteer to meet, greet, and — of course — eat. Food motivates…

Facing Death, Facing Life

This summer was one of the most challenging of my entire life. I knew it would be. In fact, I signed up for it. Toward the end of last school year as my classmates were firming up their fellowships for the summer, I made the very challenging decision to work as the rabbinic fellow at Cedar Village Retirement Community. This…

Turn It and Turn It Again

This year, I am intimately involved in the creation of a new spiral curriculum around Torah for the religious school at Isaac M. Wise Temple. While I expected to contribute to the congregation and hoped the project would transform how we learn Torah at Wise, I did not anticipate the transformative impact this process would have on me as a…

Becoming Everyone’s Rabbi

This summer I served as the rabbinic fellow at Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati, OH, where I led services and Torah studies, wrote sermons, and developed curricula alongside Rabbi Sissy Coran and Rabbi Meredith Kahan. Although I can easily present the products of my labors, my experience at Rockdale was far more meaningful than a pile of papers. Over the course…

Bearing Witness: Remembering the Past to Protect the Future

Shema! The watchword of our faith, the Shema, demands us to use our ears and hear the statement being made: God is One. Our central belief tells us to listen. In the Reform siddur, Mishkan Tefilah, the Torah passage that commands us to listen takes up an entire page. At the bottom of that page, there is a note about…

Pluralism and Interfaith

A pluralistic and interfaith rabbinate — that’s how I would sum up to colleagues in a few words my professional role these days. As Director of Jewish Family Life of the Mayerson Jewish Community Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, I have the privilege to work each day with people from a variety of backgrounds and across the spectrum of Jewish tradition.…

Journey to Jewish Ethics

I went to rabbinical school not so much to be a rabbi as to find out what I wanted to do and hopefully find my passion. When I was younger, age eight to be exact, I was clear that the best way to change the world was to be a politician. Based on this ambition, I acquired the skills I…

An Ever-Evolving Rabbinate

I was exactly twelve weeks pregnant the day of ordination. Having not been a mother through rabbinical school I had no sense of the profound impact the sacred role parenting would have on my rabbinate. My first year as a rabbi I worked as the Director of Cincinnati Hillel, where I had worked as the rabbinic intern during my fifth…

Back to School

I’m writing these words from my middle school office at The Davis Academy, Atlanta’s Reform Jewish Day School. And as I write, I can hear activity all around me. Chairs being moved in the classroom above me. The Front Desk phone ringing as parents come to grab their kids for end-of-day doctors’ appointments, student athletes picking up their gear before heading…

“Will You Please…”

“Will you please…” Like markers on a trail these three words have dotted the path of my rabbinate. A moment in time where I am forced to stop and feel the presence of vocation and the presence of God. Some stops are fleeting a place to catch my breath — refocus and refresh. “Will you please pass the challah? Will…

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…