For me, Judaism feels joyous. In my childhood home, we made every secular holiday a Jewish holiday – for Thanksgiving we ate latkes because we considered Thanksgiving to be more of a preview of Chanukah than anything else. For birthdays, we began the celebration the night before, wishing each other “Happy Erev Birthday” based on the custom of all Jewish holidays beginning in the evening (Erev). We sang Jewish songs, we ate Jewish food, we went to synagogue.
In college, when I gained language skills and could study Judaism more formally, I discovered that Judaism was hard, (like, really hard) and I loved that. It was complicated, challenging, and sometimes messy. To me, that resonated with my view of actual life. There were no easy answers but there were profound stories, characters, concepts, traditions, and beliefs.
After working in the Jewish non for profit sector, I decided to pursue the rabbinate. Why? Because it is the most challenging and fulfilling thing I could ever do. Because Jewish ideas have animated western civilization and still do. Because Jews are a living remnant of an ancient people and I want to help sustain our people. Because we are genocide survivors and rejects, refugees, and immigrants from all over the world. Because liberal Judaism strives to be egalitarian. Because Jews believe in making the world a better place through action. I became a rabbi because if I don’t help guard Jewish ideas, why should anyone else? Because being able to transmit sacred, ancient, yet acutely relevant ideas is the greatest honor of my life. That’s why I became a rabbi – because, for me to be myself, I had to.
And my “career” choice hasn’t disappointed. My responsibilities have been diverse, ranging from the most mundane jobs to the most elevated opportunities. I launched the largest, longest running millennial engagement program in New York City – Shabbat After Dark where hundreds of Jews gather on a monthly basis. I re-visioned a platform for conversion studies, growing our students from 3 learners to 30 in two years time. I created a trip to Greece to support refugee relief – raising funds and supplies to support women and unaccompanied minors that had fled war torn Syria. I oversaw an engagement center for Israeli families living in New York. I quickly recognized the resurgence in antisemitism, and I decided to fight back with one of the most powerful tools for change we have – I am fighting back with the word.
But the most important aspect of my work are not the achievements – being with Jews in sickness and health, studying Torah, lifting my voice in prayer each week, exposing someone to a transformative Jewish teaching – these are the things that are personal to me. Everyday that I am able to fulfill a mitzvah, help a person in need, share the Jewish perspective on a current event, or study a Jewish text, is a good day. And for that, I am grateful.