“Lech L’cha,” God commands to Abraham. “Go!” And it is in this moment that the Jewish journey begins.
My Jewish journey began when I was eight years old, during my first summer as a camper at URJ Camp Harlam in Pennsylvania. My dad was a former camper and counselor, and I was excited to follow in his footsteps and experience the place about which he spoke so passionately. When my parents drove away, my counselor asked if I wanted to play cards. I soon found myself in a game of “Spoons” with three people who would later become some of my best friends. Summer after summer, I would return to camp to be among my friends in a Jewish space. Not only did I make lifelong friends, but I met lifelong role models each summer. These people taught me what it meant to be a mensch, how to live life with passion, and that the future of the world was in our hands. Camp taught me about the power of living and experiencing Judaism within a kehillah, a sacred community.
In college, as I finished my first of many years teaching as a Religious School teacher, I realized that I wanted to be a rabbi. I had just spent the past year teaching Hebrew and Jewish Studies to 20 fourth graders. At first, I didn’t know what I was getting into. Who was I to teach religious school? For one, I never liked it myself. What’s more, I barely had the knowledge to teach the material that I was asked to teach. I saw this as an opportunity to learn. I wanted to provide the students with an experience that placed an emphasis on community building and bringing Jewish values into the classroom. I experimented with creative styles of learning and motivation.
In every educator role I’ve had, I have spent significant time diving into the material myself, before exploring it with my students. This has continued to be one of the most personally satisfying parts of the job. I had long wanted to immerse myself in Jewish tradition, text, and history. Teaching gave me an opportunity to do just that. Each year, when the school year concluded, I saw the community my class had created, how much the students had learned, and how excited they were about engaging in their own Jewish journeys. It was a tremendous feeling. I knew that I needed to spend the rest of my life devoted to this work.
Prior to rabbinical school, I worked as a full time Youth Director at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, California. I moved to the Bay Area eager and ready to work as a full time educator and learn from experienced professionals. I found myself working in a Jewish Education laboratory. For three years, I led a community of adolescents and youth. I worked hard at building deep, meaningful relationships with each of my students, as well as fostering relationships between them. I was intentional in every interaction I had. And I created a strong Jewish community through creative, experiential programming, community building, and leadership. As part of the senior staff, and working closely with the Rabbi Educator and Associate Rabbi, I saw first hand that it was possible to have a rabbinate that was devoted to education and community building amongst the adolescent, teen, and family communities. This experience reaffirmed my desire to have a rabbinate devoted to this work.
My time in rabbinical school gave me a foundation of Jewish text, history, and thought, as well as experiences leading a community through holidays, life-cycles, and rituals. I have been honored to lead members of my communities through conversions, baby namings, b’nei mitzvah, and vow renewals. Working as the founding Rabbinic Fellow for Base Westwood, I learned how to bring forward a vision into reality and how to build a program from the start up. I have seen how innovation and creativity can help foster a community that is welcoming, open, and lay driven.
As a Rabbi Educator at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, MD, I have found myself energized, passionate, and creatively fulfilled from this role every day. Whether it is through envisioning, managing, and implementing programs with our Education Team, leading services and life cycle events from the pulpit, or building community and providing pastoral support for our youth, teen, and family communities, this role has reinforced and strengthened my desire to work as a Rabbi Educator in my rabbinate.
All of these experiences were foundational in my drive to work as a Rabbi Educator. Jewish tradition places an emphasis on the idea that every generation has the responsibility to define Judaism for themselves. I take this idea very seriously. As a rabbi, I hope to make Judaism come alive, l’dor v’dor, from this generation to the next. Through strong community building, inter-generational leadership, and a desire to learn and interpret Judaism for our time, I look forward to helping those I serve to continue the journey of the Jewish people.