I became an ordained Rabbi in 1988, but my passion to be a Rabbi began years before that. It comes from a deep seated desire to help people in their spiritual journeys through life. Some people would think this would involve studying and teaching the Torah and other writings, but there is much more to being a rabbi than that. The Torah is a starting point, a foundation from which we build our lives. Most of us do not live "textbook" type lives. They are complicated with issues and problems that make our lives what they are. A human life is not judged by what we do, or what we accomplished, or what happened. Things happen to all of us. A life is judged by how we respond to the "things" of life, and that is what the Torah does. It assists us and guides us to keep our lives focused on the God of Israel in spite of what happens. I see my role as a rabbi as assisting people along their life journeys.
I don't have a Facebook page! I may well be the last holdout in North America, but I am so uncomfortable diluting the concept of friendship. Yeshua Rabenu referred to his talmidim as friends - and so if our Great Rabbi could eat, pray, laugh and mourn with those who called him rabbi, I want to take up the challenge to do likewise. As a rabbi of a small congregation I perform many functions. I am a teacher, an officiant, a counselor, an administrator, and a spiritual director; mostly though I like to think of myself as a community builder.
What do I enjoy most about being a rabbi? I love teaching and interacting with people in ways that challenge them to grow. For many years I've lead a mid-week Torah study with my community. I treasure the time when we can all interact with the Scriptures. We spend time understanding the stories and lives of the people on those pages. From these we learn about life's meaning, relationships, and holiness. It is most fulfilling when they encounter the "ahah" moment, when they understand a concept that they have been struggling with and the light finally turns on for them. I have many of my own "ahah" moments as I study with them. It is a privilege to learn alongside members of my community.
My vocation as a rabbi is to teach and model the ways of God for Israel, especially the Messianic Jewish community. My main passion as a rabbi is to study and teach Torah. The best way to explain this passion is to describe what I do.
I am engrossed in fashioning an approach to Messianic Jewish Torah study that fully integrates the person, teaching, and work of Yeshua with serious study of traditional texts. It must honor those texts while also grappling with their problematic features. My Messianic Jewish students are my partners in this project - I do not only teach them, I learn from them.
The celebration was a total surprise to me and my wife Sue.
During Oneg Shabbat (lunch after the morning Sabbath service), Josh, one of our Ruach Israel teens got up, and pretending to be me, asked the entire congregation to please finish eating and to move back into the sanctuary. There was to be a" special program" about which he and others seemed to anticipate. It took a few more minutes for us to catch on.
The program was a celebration, kept under wraps for months, for our 30 years of service to the synagogue. There were special songs written for the occasion, a nice gift, a giant card, a special dance, benign fun-poking at the rabbi and heart-warming expressions of gratitude. Sue and I came away with this overarching sense: "Congregational leadership since 1981 had been challenging in many ways, but overall, fabulously worth the effort. What terrific people! How kind and thoughtful they are!"
My rabbinic journey technically begins in Budapest, Hungary, the place of my birth. Since my grandfather ran a kosher butcher shop, perhaps it wasn't so surprising-but then again maybe it was-that my mother became Budapest's first licensed woman butcher. My father's family tended towards being Orthodox and later became even more so. There, in Budapest, my parents miraculously survived the Holocaust, with Raoul Wallenberg playing a significant part of that story. Interestingly, for the first several years of its existence the US Holocaust Museum would give out my mother's "story" as one of those it distributed to visitors to the Museum.
After the war, as the Iron Curtain of Soviet Communist rule was descending throughout Europe, including Hungary, my parents (along with my sister and me) made another supernatural escape. This time they landed on the shores of the United States even though we were ticketed for Paraguay. Through another series of small miracles-including an act of Congress-we were eventually allowed to remain here and became US citizens.