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.

Final Dvar Torah for Board Meeting 6/18/12 (part 1)

This week's portion of Korach contains the great rebellion against Moses & Aaron. In the "Ethics of the Fathers" the early rabbis articulate two kinds of disagreement/debate. The arguments of Shammai and Hillel were debates for the "sake of heaven"... their quest for the truth will always endure. On the other hand the argument of Korach against Moses will not endure, because it's cause was ego and the quest for power, not for the betterment of the community.
A year ago at Kehilat Shalom we engaged in a debate for the "sake of heaven." We were grappling with the future of Kehilat Shalom as sacred community. Over the summer of 2011 we reflected on who we are, where we are, and where we wanted to go in the future. In September the congregation voted to remain in Montgomery Village as long as possible. It was a true discussion for the sake of our "connection" as community to God. Much of our discussion was about the reality, the facts of our community. We also debated what our options were and whether good choices had been made in the past and the present. Making sure we're clear on the facts and grappling with making the proper judgement calls are always "kosher" arguments. Making the right call is often a result of the creative tensions of difficult discussion.
Looking back on the debate though we know some of the discussion was not for the sake of heaven. Every point made which questioned anyone's intention, which doubted someone's integrity, which recommended that if you disagree ... you should leave the community - was a Korach argument. We understood the painful nature of the demographic and financial facts within the debate at the time, but such points in the debate were truly destructive of the bonds of our community. And I would add (my own sin too) that those of us who made similar points against our opposites in private, rather than in public, are equally guilty of diminishing the holiness of every person in our congregation and our quest to serve God together.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Coming to the End of the Kehilat Shalom ECC

Sunday we had a wonderful celebration of our Early Childhood Center. Past directors, faculty (past and present) and families joined in a wonderful morning of being together, reconnecting, and reflecting on the joys of our "nursery school." In many ways it has been the jewel in the program of Kehilat Shalom. The leadership of the directors, the skill and love of the teachers, the deep commitment of parents (and the friends they made) and the amazing growth of the kids in our ECC for more than 30 years have made it a special, wonderful place for everyone.
It's sad that the demographics of Montgomery Village and this side of Gaithersburg no longer can support a Jewish pre-school here. So we're in the process of selling our "School Building", ending our summer camp and ECC, and moving our Religious School (as small as it now is) into our Main Building. It's a difficult and painful transition for those who have been here through the years and remember a Religious School of over 300 children and a Nursery School of over 100 youngsters.
Last night was the final ECC graduation... 11 wonderful kids and their families celebrated. It was a wonderful program from the remarks, to the "grand" procession, to the kids singing, the receipt of their medals of graduation, and then eating! The sense of loss was palpable for almost everyone, but the joy of kids at their graduation! enabled everyone to have a wonderful evening.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Retirement Party Remarks (part 3 - Last)

When I think back on all the wonderful things
More than the social justice work that has made a difference in our lives and saving lives in our larger community – what I cherish most are you…

Begin with: Special thanks for this moment: Elisa Linowes and Rhoda Press and everyone who helped. Your thoughtfulness (love the Centerpieces) and hours of work… appreciated.

Community cannot be without all the Lay Leaders… who agreed with my dreams and were the hands that carried them out… I’d like to mention everyone, but I am afraid I’d leave someone out so… I just thank you and I cherish our sacred work of community together

I’ve been blessed to work with an amazing senior staff and office staff. Bunny, Marge, Sue, Amanda + PMM guys. In my first shul I was the only full time person. In Binghamton, in the last years it was just me and the office manager. I’ve been lucky to work with some amazingly, great people: Binnie, Pam, Amy (ECC)/ Jill, Debbie, Mindy and Linda (RS) / Wendy (Youth)/ (Hazzanim) David and Kim / I've been lucky...

Ah … Judi
I will not repeat what I said last March at your pseudo-retirement celebration
We may have a legal address in Olney, Potomac or the Village but we have shared a second home, Kehilat Shalom for the past 16 years. We don’t just come to work, we treat this physical place as home and everyone who comes inside its circle as extended family with all the mishugas of family. Thank you for being on the same page as me 98% of the time and helping in ways to numerous to count to carry out my vision - and thank you also for the 2% … when seeing all the nuances makes my work better. / And for 6 weeks from now, I again wish you great times with family, grandchildren and especially with Fred in your next stage of the fullness of life.

Tali & Diane…

Thank you all … for all the joy and sacredness of relationship: reflected in some numbers from my spreadsheets.

73 weddings
76 conversions – with 3 to go this month
142 funerals
153 baby namings or brises
461 children bnai mitzvah (not counting the 20 or so adults) with 5 to go

In so many of these moments, I have felt the Presence of God and that Spiritual Power and Love has energized me throughout my term as your rabbi.

Thank you for the honor and joy of serving this wonderful community.

Retirement Party Remarks (part 2)

So: Going back to the Torah: What’s the Promised Land?
Like Moses (I’m not planning on dying though) passing the mantle of leadership to Joshua, I can see the land but I can’t tell you exactly what it is.
I’m not sure… but I believe that you and my successor can go there.

Which leads to my second thought:
Give the new rabbi whoever he or she is a chance to succeed
Whether you’re definitely staying, definitely leaving, or have left a while ago… Please
1) Check out my successor
2) And please: find a way to support this community
I am not this community, only its spiritual leader for 1/3 of its existence and hopefully within a month there will be a new vision and articulation of what our community is striving for

So I was thinking: who could be a Role Model for a last sermon?
Preached a couple of years ago: Mitch Albom’s: Have A Little Faith
Rabbi Al Lewis was one of my homiletics’ teachers at Seminary
pg 210
"He could have used the occasion to reflect on his accomplishemnts. Instead he asked forgiveness. He apologized for notbeing able to save more marriage, for not visitn gthe homebound more, for not easing more pain of parents who hd lost a child, for not having more oney to help families in econoimc ruin. He apologized to teenagers with whom he didn't spend enought time teaching."
My top two: apologies for all the follow up phone calls to sick or grieving / thank you notes that should have been written that just never got mailed. That’s my next to the last thought.

Retirement Party Remarks (part 1)


Several short thoughts for this bitter…sweet moment

First was triggered by Tuesday’s Op Ed by Eugene Robinson about European Austerity
He tried to make the case: Europe needs to grow… that the solution to it’s problem.
And: We know about Kehilat Shalom’s austerity literally over the last 4 years

Short term, like Europe, we cannot grow our way out of our fundamental fiscal conundrum
We do have a small window of opportunity once we sell our School building to try to rejuvenate
I am not without hope

That hope comes from here (hold up Tanach) and from Jewish history
Communities have faded from the map but Judaism creatively evolves especially in hard times
The 1st Temple was destroyed >2500 years ago and Judaism should have died out like the 10 tribes – but prophets and the first synagogues saved the Jewish pathway to God
When the 2nd Temple was destroyed @1900 yrs ago, the rabbis made Jerusalem portable through study of torah and acts of loving-kindness, which we still live today. We have found creatively radical solutions to challenges that should have erased our legacy.
In the 30s, sociologists predicted the end of Orthodoxy in the US and in the 50s the end of Reform Judaism. Both are still going strong. And for the past 20 years the “experts” have predicted the end of Conservative Judaism and we’re hemorrhaging … but still alive and kicking. Yes… We’re in crisis, but like our ancestors we quest for new solutions to our present day challenges.

It begins here (Tanach) Bereshit…
God creates the world in an act of unconditional love. God is creator. God organizes, God is intentional, God is creative and God evaluates creation. How absolutely radical when compared to the pagan myths of gods! We are not whims of the gods, we are partners in the on-going work of creation – to repair our imperfect world. And in the middle of Genesis through the rest of Exodus and the Torah, the patriarchs and then Moses become God’s hands in the world… organizing, being intentional, and evaluating their creation of sacred community and inspiring a model of ethics and holiness to the whole world. Being created in the image of God means: we do God’s creative process for the well-being of ourselves and our community.

Technologically and sociologically in just the last 10-15 years the world has changed radically. Synagogues in the next decade across the liberal spectrum will be grappling with those changes…
But we’ve evolved before and we can do it again.
To connect with the “emerging adults” we’ve going to have twitter and use the internet and only God knows what else will be the next technology. I know those mediums are fundamentally about sharing information and expanding connections, not about relationship and depth. But the ability to share the wisdom of Judaism / and to build connection / and to connect people questing … is an untapped potential for those willing to invest in the process.
The next decade is going to be hard for shuls. For shuls: Technology,/ economics,/ kinds of affiliation/ and use of facilities/ will all see experimentation and the stress that goes with the risks of transitioning to something new and better

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Retirement Party

My Retirement Party this past Saturday was lovely. People spoke eloquently. Kids were wonderful with their presentations. My father, sisters, and my immediately family were inspired. For me it was bittersweet.

It's still hard to pick up and move on. I know for my physical and spiritual well-being it's time ... but for half my life I've been a pulpit rabbi and now I'll be teaching or doing chaplaincy. Actually I'm ready for the change.

Left do before June 30 (biggies): three conversions, seven bnai mitzvah total, and four more classes including the siyyum for Bible Study, when we finish Devarim and 10 years of Torah learning.

It's strange to be lame duck with so much still to be done, but I'm ready to ... really follow through on my job search.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Our Student Rabbis and My Plans

It's a strange time for me. For the second weekend in a row we are interviewing Friday Night, Shabbat morning, and Sunday Morning wonderful rabbinic students to be the next rabbi of Kehilat Shalom. They're all amazing, talented, soon to be ordained rabbis with skill sets for the rabbinate of 21st Century. It's been great emailing, shmoozing, hosting, and trying to help them think through their decision about their professional future. I hope one of them will love Kehilat Shalom as much as I have and become it's next spiritual leader.

As for me, my cover letters and updated resumes are ready to go out. After all my months of networking I'm not as interested in not-for-profit work. Primarily I'm looking to my first love, to be able to teach full time, probably Day School. I'm also exploring part-time CPE Chaplaincy with stipend, in conjunction with part-time teaching. As long as I'm teaching I know I'll be fine. I need CPE (Continuing Pastoral Education) because the one aspect of chaplaincy I have consistently found significant is hospice counseling. At some future time with proper training, I know I would be energized by supporting souls approaching the end of life and their loved ones.

Really looking forward to spending the day with my Dad in NY on Monday.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Week in Review

Two highlights of this past week
1) Sunday we had a wonderful Tu B'Shevat Seder. The food, the YouTube Videos, the coloring pages, and the music all worked. Kids and adults who were present had time to think about trees and our ecosystem and just have fun.
2) Went to Adas in DC on Wednesday to participate in two conversions (I was not the sponsoring rabbi) On several levels the job of the rabbi is to "make Jews": to work with those who are born Jewish to connect to God and our tradition ... and for those who are "Jews-by-choice" to help them find their pathway to Jewish spirituality. Sitting on the tribunal is always joyful - to hear the stories of the journey between countries, on the roller coast ride of life ... to find deep meaning and joy in spiritual family, community, and tradition - is always moving and significant.

A Busy weekend coming up
Early Childhood Center Shabbat tonight
Reading the 10 Commandments in the Torah tomorrow morning
Fourth Grade Havdalah Service Saturday Night
Adult Bnot Mitzvah Class Sunday morning followed by the brainstorming session for the future of the Religious School
A full weekend of good activity

Friday, January 20, 2012

Three highlights of the week

It's been a good week. No pastoral emergencies and some interesting experiences.

On Monday, on MLK Day, I helped facilitate AIM's Annual Retreat. We broke into small groups and role played/dramatized the issues AIM is pursuing this Spring/Fall. We hope to insure that the Dream Act Referendum does not overturn the legislation. And we are also doing House Meeting throughout the county on Senior Issues. We hope to have actions for the county to enhance the quality of life for seniors in our area.

Wednesday Morning I drove to Annapolis and on invitation from District 39 State Senator Nancy King invoked the Senate of Maryland. I had done it before about 10 years ago, but it's still cool to be in our historic capital building and set a tone for the day. I spoke briefly about Martin Luther King's inspirational leadership and how great leaders tell great stories and frame challenges which unite us in common quest for meaning and community. Thanks to Ben Goldstein-Smith, from Senator King's Staff (and who I "bar mitzvahed" many years ago) for helping to make the arrangements.

On Tuesday and Wednesday following up our Yom Kippur initiatives to re-energize our community we had orientations for volunteers to serve as Ushers/Greeters. It is important to have a caring and warm face for everyone who enters our spiritual home to worship. Thanks to those who attended the workshop and a special thanks to Howard Glassman for reorganizing the greeter/usher guidelines and leading the sessions.

This Shabbat ... Sisterhood Shabbat. Sisterhood's doing almost everything... it's almost a Shabbat off!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I've changed my mind - January Bulletin article

I’ve changed my mind. In December 2006 the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement voted two papers about the “Status of Gays” in our part of the Jewish world. One opposed changing Jewish law and a second, reinterpreted Jewish law to permit the ordination of a gay rabbi. In the February 2007 Shofar, I had written my support for the paper of my teacher, Rabbi Joel Roth, which maintained the status quo and rejected the ordination of gay rabbis.
After four years of reflection and continued study I’ve changed my mind. In the same way as Rabbi’s Roth Responsa of 1984 lead to the ordination of women as rabbis, the legal ‘paper’ of 2006 lead directly to the ordination of homosexual and lesbian rabbis. In 1984 Rabbi Roth created a new legal category. In order to lead the community in public prayer one must have the obligation. Traditionally women do not. Roth posited that women could voluntarily accept the same obligation as men to worship and therefore bind themselves to pray and empower themselves to thereby daven for the community. It was a brilliant solution to a halachic barrier.
In the same way, the 2006 Responsa of Rabbis Dorff, Nevins and Reisner reinterpreted the Torah and said the Torah’s prohibition of homosexuality refers only to ‘Anal Sex’ between two men. All the other mitzvot regarding prohibitions of homosexuality and lesbians are rabbinic in origin. With regard to rabbinic law the value of “human dignity is so great that it supersedes a commandment of the Torah.” The acceptance of this “Torah” prohibition of the specific behavior therefore empowers full participation in Jewish life, even ordination as a rabbi. This is a brilliant solution to a halachic barrier. The humiliation of being excluded and the anguish of being unable to observe certain mitzvot are inconsistent with our basic respect for every soul. Instead of alienating caring and committed souls, we can welcome and enable full observance and participation in Jewish life.
For today, this is my personal commitment to state and do what I believe is the truth of our tradition. Consistent with my new understanding I would be honored to officiate at a commitment/wedding ceremony (within the laws of the jurisdiction of the ceremony).
I look forward in the coming months to continue our common quest to understand God’s teachings and truths for our community and every soul.

My "year" of Kaddish is done

I finished my 11 Jewish months of saying Kaddish for my mother yesterday, so hopefully I'll be back to writing at least once a week on my blog. It's been a trying year. Last year at this time we knew my mother's time was short and she did pass away in February. A few weeks later my sister-in-law died and then a week later I officiated at the funeral of a special cousin/"uncle". At the same time, in a tumultuous process, Kehilat Shalom considered it's future and after months of fractious discussion about a possible merger voted to stay independent as long as possible.
So looking back on the year it's been year of sadness and loss and stress and incredible loving support. I've attended minyan at Kehilat Shalom almost every night and at Bnai Israel in Rockville almost every morning. People at Kehilat Shalom especially in the weeks after my mom's death were incredibly kind and supportive. And the 'gang' at Bnai Israel every morning feels like extended family... I'll continue to support them as they've helped me by continuing to go every Friday morning.
I also see that my family is doing good. My son is healthy and happy at college. My wife, Diane, is OK and trying to take a little better care of herself. My sisters and their families are all doing good. My father is doing amazingly well. He's walking with a walker and his memory is good almost every day... both are tremendous improvements for previous years.
It will be good to "get back" an hour and a half every morning (early rush hour to Rockville to minyan and back) ... to sleep a hour more and go back to the gym every morning. I'll still pray at home every morning and think about my mother and the other family who I remember at every service.
A good and healthy 2012 to all...