One of our former music teachers, Ann Laurie Josephs, used to teach her younger children a popular catchy song the kids would sing enthusiastically called, “What Does a Rabbi Do?”
Over the last couple of weeks I have been in the thick of things with the Obama administration’s denunciation of the Israeli government’s decision to issue housing permits for construction on vacant land in North Jerusalem. I wrote a letter to Congressman Steny Hoyer which, in internet parlance, “went viral.” It was picked up on several national blogs including Commentary and The National Journal. I heard from people around the country, and even in Canada, some telling me they had received it from several different sources. I think one of the reasons it was so widely circulated and well received is because all too often rabbis equivocate and do not take clear positions on behalf of Israel.
In addition to making calls and sending letters to members of Congress on this important issue, I also participated in a meeting with members of the Presbyterian clergy to talk about an upcoming proposal to be introduced to their General Assembly, which would be hostile towards Israel. A few rabbis and representatives of the American Jewish Committee were invited by local clergy sympathetic to Israel and are concerned about the hostile impact of the resolution on Jewish-Presbyterian relations. I also attended a meeting of our local Federation, of which I am a Board member, to discuss the process of choosing a new Executive Director. Other responsibilities in the community over the last few weeks included teaching a class at the “Routes” program of the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning, entitled, “How to Read the Bible.” Later that same day I spoke at a conference at the University of Maryland on the issue of religious pluralism and religion and democracy in Israel.
In addition to these responsibilities outside of the synagogue, and my regular ongoing classes that I teach in the congregation, I also met with the children in the nursery school to speak with them about the upcoming holiday of Passover. I taught a couple of workshops for parents about how to bring Judaism into their lives on a daily basis. I met with our 11th and 12th graders to speak with them about how to respond to anti-Israel propaganda on college campuses. One night I went downtown to speak with children of members to discuss some programs we can offer for the “Next-Gen.”
The rabbi of the first synagogue where I worked taught me that as important as our work in the community is, we must always be there for our congregants and make that a priority. It is a message I have never forgotten. Meetings with congregants range from private conversations about personal issues to offering support or comfort during difficult times, as well as providing counseling and advice when they are facing various personal challenges. I enjoy sharing and preparing for the life cycle events that transpire in people’s lives, be they happy or sad.
I led a meeting of Washington area rabbis at our synagogue about the impact Israel has on our lives as individuals and as rabbis. The discussion was a most interesting one in which I asked colleagues to talk about the role which Israel played in their decision to become a rabbi, as well as how to treat concerns when speaking from the pulpit. The greater part of a day was spent a few weeks ago at the mikveh as part of a beit din, a rabbinic court, which welcomes and certifies individuals who choose to convert to Judaism. One night I reviewed a book and led a discussion for our Sisterhood about the book entitled, “The Inner Soul,” by Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein.
I am often amazed by the diversity of my job as a rabbi. One of the things I so much enjoy and cherish about it is the multi-faceted dimension of it. The child of a member met with me the other day to discuss the possibility of becoming a rabbi. I gave an enthusiastic endorsement of how meaningful and fulfilling it can be!