Passing the Baton

A core characteristic of a true leader is knowing when to pass the baton. This week, I explore how parshat pinchas speaks to the passing of the baton from the runners up to the Presidential nominees.

Don't Judge Me

When I meet with a person who wants to convert to Judaism or a couple engaged to be married one of the things we discuss is who will accept their conversion or marriage if I serve as their rabbi. As a liberal American rabbi, there are many who will question my ordination and my standing as a mara d’atra (local religious decisor) worthy of overseeing major lifecycle events: Some in the American Orthodox community and the entire Rabbinical establishment in Israel, which is owned and controlled, part and parcel, by the ultra-Orthodox. I tell those who come to me that while the vast majority, if not all, of the liberal Jewish world will have no problem with my service as a m’sader kiddushin or m

Not All Politics Are Partisan

I was inspired when I read about the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. As a musician myself I immediately began reaching out to fellow musicians and leaders in my faith community. Could we bring people together, raise our voices in song, and drown out the scourge of gun violence that has enveloped our country? It seemed like a no brainer to me - but then again, I have been accused, more than once, of naivete and wishful thinking. I was immediately told that gun violence is a political issue that we shouldn't get involved in. After all, we are a 501c3 and we can't take political positions. My first response was: "Really?! Bringing people together against gun violence is a political

Giving and Receiving

American Jewish communities face an ongoing struggle to engage volunteers. From federations and other communal organizations to day schools and synagogues, lay and professional leaders are always striving to create more meaningful opportunities for members and friends to give of their time, expertise and energy. I’ve recently had experiences that taught me a great deal about where we are missing the mark around giving and receiving. As much as earning a salary is vital to my family’s survival, giving to the Jewish community is vital to my spiritual health. Like many, I yearn to be an engaged and active part of the Jewish community and I have unique skills to contribute. Unfortunately, I have

Meaningless Milestones

Largest death toll of police officers since 9/11. Worst mass shooting since 9/11. What is our fascination with these milestones? Every time another tragedy occurs we memorialize it as a milestone in our nation’s history. More gun related deaths than any other country. Worst mass shooting in our nation’s history. Are these the milestones we want to mark? Milestones are supposed to awaken us to our trajectory. When I celebrate a birthday, mark a first in my life, recognize an event as an important stop on my life’s journey - I do so to gain perspective on where I’ve been and where I’m going. So where have we been and where are we going - as a nation? Violence is not new. Hatred has not just be

My Beautiful Rebellious Daughter

Korach said to Moses, “all the community are holy, all of them, and HASHEM is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the LORD’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3). Moses’ response is to fall on his face and declare that God will show them who is holy and who isn’t; who is chosen and who isn’t. The story ends as we might expect - Moses is shown to be the true leader of the Israelites and Korach and his band of rebels are swallowed by the earth. Korach clearly overreached. Moses says as much to him just a few verses later, “Is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has set you apart from the community of Israel and given you access to the Divine, to perform the duties of the H

Inside Out

A while back I wrote that I will have big plans to announce for my future. It is finally time to share those plans. Before I do, just a moment of reflection. Throughout my career as a rabbi I’ve been both inside and out. I’ve been inside the organized Jewish community by: Serving as a rabbi and educator at Conservative and Reform affiliated synagogues and schools, working with many mainstream organizations, such as, CJP and JCRC in Boston, and sharing my music with national organizations like the UAHC (now URJ) Biennial and International USY conventions. I’ve been outside, both because of my choice of Rabbinical school, the Academy for Jewish Religion and by not being a member of either of t

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