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Serving the Jew, and the Jewish People

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I see the primary role of a rabbi as being a servant-leader, one who leads out of genuine love for Jews and the Jewish People. Rabbis can serve the Jewish people by serving as a community rabbi, or in any non-profit Jewish organization. For me, being a synagogue rabbi means not only caring about the Jewish People but caring about Jews. Pastoral care, guiding families and leading their life cycle events, and being present to counsel people are the some of the important roles of a synagogue rabbinate and I feel particularly attuned to this holy work.

Pastoral care and counseling are a core of my rabbinate. I enjoy getting to know people, and I have been told many times that I have a calm and balanced presence. I have found the work of comforting and counseling to be among the most meaningful parts of my week. I’m eager to return a call or meet with someone who wants to talk to me, or to let someone who is ill or in distress know that I am thinking of them and want to help. A connection to God is important for Jews to explore, and through teaching and conversations I want to help people develop how they think about God and God’s relationship with both them as an individual and the Jewish People as a whole. There is no single way for a person to relate to God. I want people to feel comfortable talking about God and thinking about God, as these are the ways we can struggle with our relationship with God.

Many people become closest to rabbis when approaching a life cycle event. While I hope to be close to my congregants even if I’ve never officiated a life cycle event for them, I also lean into those occasions. A focus of my rabbinate is being a presence in the lives of my congregants. When I am the rabbi helping a couple understand the ways in which the traditional wedding may or may not appeal to them, I seek to get to know them through multiple meetings and help them personalize the ceremony. When I work with religious school students and children becoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah, I seize on the opportunity to build a relationship with the young person and their family, and I learn about them to improve my own teaching and to make the process more meaningful to them. I am especially aware, having lost my own father in the last few months, of the power a caring rabbi has to make rituals like a funeral or sitting shiva meaningful and impactful so that we pay honor to the deceased and the family can look back on the occasion as having helped them process their grief and prepare them for how mourning unfolds over time.

Teaching is incredibly important to me. Not only teaching about the Torah, but especially helping people make informed choices about their relationship to mitzvot. Reform Jews can define their own religious lives while exploring the importance of mitzvot in the practice of Judaism. Our tradition’s beauty rests in Reform Jews’ ability to shape their choices and participation according to their understanding. I try to teach people to look at the many mitzvot that could be part of their practice. My mission is to open the toolbox of mitzvot, so Jewish people can live lives that are Jewish, ethical, and moral.

Much of my teaching comes from one of our most important values, “Ma’alin B’Kodesh.” (Increasing holiness) Explaining why we light an additional candle each night of Hanukah, our ancient sage, Rabbi Hillel taught that we should be ma’alin b’kodesh, those who seek to elevate ourselves in matters of holiness. I want to work with people to pay attention to their actions, to be thoughtful about their practice of mitzvot, and to always strive to increase in holiness through mitzvot for themselves, their families, and their Jewish communities.

Finally, caring about the Jewish People involves being attentive to and able to explain Israel. I have always been deeply connected to Israel, and while in rabbinical school I lived in Israel, visited Israel, and was involved in fellowships with the Shalom Hartman Institute and AIPAC to learn all I could about Israel. The value of “K’lal Yisrael” (Jewish Peoplehood) is very important to my teaching and to how I approach the building of Jewish communities.

I hope I have the opportunity to build a community with you.

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