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…

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…