Thursday, October 25, 2012

60 today

Life is good.
Today I turned 60.
I miss the congregation and being on the bimah, but it was definitely time for a change. After 31 years of 60 hours weeks, most of the year, I am ready to work a 30-40 hour week
Last week I had my medical run throughs at Adventist Health Care - getting the vaccinations and medical paperwork I needed.
This past Monday for all new "employees" was orientation to hospital safety: medically and for practical safety.
Next Thursday starts "Continuing Pastoral Education" CPE. That's the training that I need to be credentialed to be a chaplain in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. Today many rabbinical students receive the units while in school. Thirty years ago no Jewish seminaries offered the courses. I look forward to the supervision and learning. Already have homework to read and then write a book report - it's been a long time since I wrote one. 
The first full week of November I have three days of orientation and practicum in Pastoral Care at Adventist. I don't have my schedule yet or whether I'll be primarily at Shady Grove Hospital or Adventist Rehab Hospital. But wherever they assign me will be a great learning experience and I hope spiritually helpful to the patients. 
I've enjoyed my 6th and 7th Graders at Or Chadash Congregation in Damascus Sunday morning and Tuesday night. Great energy, great fun and even a little learning. I still enjoy the challenge of creating a lesson that works for all ways of learning and the needs of a diverse group of young people. 
Only stress is minor... I was hoping for a residency position at Shady Grove which has a stipend. But I will be working there as an intern... no pay. So I'll have to start dipping into non-retirement savings starting in January. I'm making between teaching and other pastoral duties about a quarter of what I took home at Kehilat Shalom... so I'll just have to take some money out of mutual funds every few months to pay my share of the home bills. Thank God, I have the money...
When I've completed my CPE units hopefully Shady Grove will hire me as chaplain, but if not, there seem to be frequent openings at other institutions in the area for this skill set. Tali hopes to go grad school for an MA and then a PhD in Eastern European History... and I'd love to be able to help him out with tuition and housing. He's taking GREs this weekend... so wish him luck. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Finally the job I've been waiting for

Adventist Health Care/ Shady Grove called on Friday and barring any surprises I will begin my "Continuing Pastoral Education" first unit(s) there in November. While I have visited hospitals and nursing homes for three decades, I've never had supervision on visits and pastoral reflection on the soul-to-soul experiences of the sacred encounters. I am hoping that it will serve as a stepping stone to a decade long career in different forms of chaplaincy. This will empower my goal of working a 30-40 hour week, a nice half-time position from my old "pulpit rabbinate" work schedule.

So while I will be a little short of incoming income for the next 6-8 months, I'm happy with what's in place. Fortunately I've saved up and hopefully will add a little other part-time work. As of now:
25-30 hours a week at Adventist Health Care visiting patients in different hospitals and learning about chaplaincy.

4 hours of teaching a week at Or Chadash in Damascus. Today was our first day and ambivalently there are a lot of nice families and wonderful kids formerly from Kehilat Shalom learning there. Amazingly there are two seventh graders who I named 11+ years ago in one of my classes.

I am going to be filling in with worship at the Hebrew Home in Rockville, helping out with leading services as one of the many people who serve that role in daily, holiday and Shabbat Services there.

I've helped a little for High Holidays with Rabbi Bob Saks at Am Yisrael in Silver Spring.

I miss the Sanctuary (and many people) at Kehilat Shalom... it's a wondrous worship space and community. But I'm getting used to davening frequently on Friday Nights at Or Chadash to learn their melodies for teaching there and praying most Saturday Morning at Shaare Torah. It's like Kehilat Shalom in the "old days" with zillions of kids running around and keeping everyone young and mishuga.

To all Gmar Hatima Tova... may we be sealed in the Book of Life for a good 5773.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's September and High Holidays are around the corner

It's been a wonderful summer. I've relaxed and recuperated. I've also been stressed and in limbo.
I've been waiting all summer for Adventist Health Care to hire a Continuing Pastoral Education Supervisor to do the training I've never had time to receive to be a certified chaplain. I'm still waiting. That's why I haven't posted in a long while ... I wanted to share good news.
Over the last two weeks, I've finally, after having a six-week "Sabbatical" become bored. I want to work. I want what I do to be meaningful every day.
What has been meaningful in August has been hospice visits. It's been an honor and incredibly beautiful spending time with the process of love, life and death. It's something I could see doing when I've completed my chaplaincy certification. It is often a time when people's thoughts and feelings are so open, so holy .... that every moment is precious.
But in the last 48 hours I've accomplished some partial good news.
I've made arrangements to help during the High Holidays for a couple of services at Am Yisrael in Silver Spring. I wanted to be working during the "Days of Awe." Although I'm not doing a lot, it will be nice to do a little preaching and helping with sacred worship. I'll also be doing a very short Dvar Torah at Shaare Torah where Diane and I have joined as members. I've really enjoyed Shabbat mornings there with the warmth of the community and the myriad kids running around during service and kiddush.
Also, I've agreed to teach Religious School at Or Chadash in Clarksburg/Damascus on Sundays and Tuesday Nights. If Shady Grove comes through for the 25-30 hours a week and I have the four hours of classes at OC, I'll be in the ballpark of the 40 hour week I want to work.
Hopefully  more good news soon... either way, wishing everyone a meaningful period of preparation for the High Holidays and a Shana tova.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Shul Hopping

I knew when I decided to retire from Kehilat Shalom that I would also decide to stay away from the community for at least a year. I had heard stories and had some experience with retired rabbis who remained in their communities... it was difficult sometimes for the new rabbi... to be THE rabbi. So I'm in process of looking for shul ... where I want to daven for this year.
I know no synagogue is going to be perfect. My ideal, when I reflect on it, would be a Camp Ramah service. I like lots of communal singing, a service that moves at a good pace, and some teaching in the service. (I also do not like a three hour service) There was always an intimacy and warmth (even on weekdays when everyone was half asleep) that was part of a palpable sense of caring and sacred community.
So I've been to three different congregations this month and will try another tomorrow morning. I really would prefer to walk to shul on Shabbat, but I'm sure sometime in the future I'll again be able to enjoy the sacred spirituality of shabbas walking.
I'll report more on my quest for a place daven and my work situation when things fall into place.
Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

First week after Kehilat Shalom... QM2

Spent last week on the Queen Mary 2 up to Halifax. My sister Karen (and her son Daniel) and my family took my Dad with an aide up to Canada for 5 days on the QM2. We left last Sunday and came back Friday. The ship is impressive: 151,000 tons, 2600 passengers, 1200 crew. Beautiful ship.
We were all kind of disappointed with the food... good but never great, which we've experienced on other cruises. OTOH, the spa was first rate (although expensive). I had an amazing massage and then met with the ship chiropractor who did trigger point acupuncture. My shoulders have actually relaxed for the first time since my surgery 5 years ago.
I guess the highlight was just being able to "take" my dad (although he actually paid for all of us). My parents used to cruise 1-3 times a year after he retired 27 years ago, until his Parkinson's made it too much. We were all quietly sentimental thinking about how much she would have enjoyed. My Dad even used one of her pocketbooks to carry stuff. With the aide, my sister, myself, Diane, and two grandsons... it was great to get him out of his Nursing Home. He was able to wheelchair around in Halifax and Boston. He was able to use his walker on the ship. He went to shows and activities. It was a special time for all of us.
Spent Shabbat in Yonkers after dropping my Dad at his Nursing Home in Northern Westchester. Did dinner at Epstein's Kosher Deli Friday before Shabbat... finally had great food. Nothing like NY deli! Davened at Northeast Synagogue in Yonkers. Nice people. Even received an aliyah. Kind of sad that like so many Conservative Synagogues... location, location, location... the demographics are working against the shul having a future.
Stopped after Shabbat near Philly in Mt. Laurel, NJ. Davened this morning at Beth Shalom in Cherry Hill. It brings back memories of Rabbi Al Lewis (z"l) who was one of my homiletics teachers 35 years ago at JTS. Beautiful shul, nice minyan for a Sunday morning.
I'm ready for a quiet week of networking and job search. Next week I'll have a conversation with Pastoral Care at Adventist Health Care and see if they have something for me as my next career.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Last Blog as Rabbi of Kehilat Shalom

As I retire from Kehilat Shalom tomorrow adapted from my last Shofar bulletin article. Except for my childhood home (1954-1973) in Westbury, Long Island, Kehilat Shalom and Montgomery Village is my second longest “home.” As I move to another stage in my professional career, several thoughts.

First, the future of Kehilat Shalom is dependent upon some solution to our financial challenge. We cannot remain in survival mode, expending incredible energy every year on making ends meet and be a healthy community. I hope with new leadership, professional and lay, new ideas will create solutions to the fundamental challenge of paying for our community. I therefore ask everyone (member and non-member) who reads this to consider how you can help maintain our caring, but stressed community. I ask everyone to give my successor a chance to succeed with his/her new ideas about the directions and activities of our synagogue in the 21st Century.

Second, after months of networking in various careers, I want to teach full-time, preferably in one of the Day Schools. My second choice, which I’ve begun to explore, is to do chaplaincy part-time and teach part-time. Diane and I do plan to stay in the area, but my intention is to stay away from Kehilat Shalom, for a while, to empower the new rabbi to be THE Rabbi. I would be honored though to help out my successor at his or her request.

How am I feeling? There have been so many bittersweet moments even this past month. I’ve started experiencing the last of so many regular and special activities (ex. the of the ECC, the final Bat Mitzvah) that have been part of my life within our community. It’s hard to say goodbye, but I am looking forward to working a little less, being home most nights of the week, not having to prepare a weekly sermon and just davening for myself every Shabbat.

Next to the last: What am I going to miss the most? Obviously it’s the people, even more than the Sanctuary. If there were two things I wish I could change among all the small and big mistakes of 16 years, it would be to have found the time for an additional phone call to someone in need or pain and to have written many more thank you notes to everyone who made a difference for our community and to me personally. After June 30, please don’t use my office email. My semiprofessional email is, if you want to email me. My home phone will remain in the Membership Directory. And if you Facebook, please feel free to friend me –I’d be delighted.

Finally, thank you for the honor and joys of serving as the Rabbi of Kehilat Shalom for the past 16 years.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Final Dvar Torah for Board Meeting 6/18/12 (part 2)

We just completed the congregation meeting which authorized next fiscal year's budget. I began with "Ethics of the Fathers" and continue in Chapter 2. "If there is no Torah, there is no flour, if there is no flour, there is no Torah." Flour here does not literally mean grain; it means the resources to eat and to live. If you don't have the basics of life, it's hard to live a life of Torah... you're just trying to survive. For the past three or so years, in some ways, that's where Kehilat Shalom has been. As our membership and school populations have decreased, we, the Board, have spend almost all of our time on finances, almost nothing on program and more importantly, on relationship. So I have a request: please don't burn out my successor by involving him every week in the fiscal issues of our community. Let the rabbi inspire, lead, and engage people in Torah and let that Torah lead to the resources in people and dollars to sustain Kehilat Shalom. Second request, to the members of the Board themselves: don't spend all your valuable free time on the fiduciary needs of the community.  Board members too need to do Torah: to study, to meditate, to make the world a better place, and to be with friends... otherwise the challenges of balancing the budget will drain the spirit. We need both flour and Torah.
Finally, in Chapter 18 within this week's parsha, God speaks to Aaron the priests and tells then: "I make your sacred work a gift of dedication." The work of the leadership of our community is a sacred gift of service to God. Through our service to this community we bring meaning, relevance, holiness, and sacred connection to each other and to God.