I was recently honored for my twelve years of service to the Temple Beth Elohim community. I was given the opportunity to share a few thoughts, which are found below. I am humbled and profoundly grateful to have been a part of such a significant and exciting chapter of the TBE story, and may we go from strength to strength.
“What really matters is that we care about the people we seek to engage. When we genuinely care about people, we will not only welcome them; we will listen to their stories, we will share ours, and we will join together to build a Jewish community that enriches our lives.”
Dr. Ron Wolfson’s charge from “Relational Judaism” just begins to scratch the surface. For more than 68 years, the power of relationships have transformed our Temple Beth Elohim family, and for the past 12, have certainly transformed me. The events were great. The trips were epic. The classes were inspiring. But it is within the relationships – the connections made in between – where the holiness dances and thrives. Dr. Wolfson identifies nine levels of relationship, which speak to how my time at TBE has deeply impacted me, and for which I am forever grateful.
Bayn adam l’atzmo – between you and yourself: a strong internal Jewish identity, a definition of self that includes “Jewish” as a key factor. From my own formative years as a teen and emerging adult, NFTY, Camp Bauercrest, Hillel and URJ Eisner Camp helped me find and develop pride in my Jewish identity. But it was at Temple Beth Elohim where I learned how I wanted to and could explore the many different components of my Jewish identity.
Bayn adam l’mishpachah – between you and your family. Immediately upon joining the TBE staff and congregation, I expanded my concept of family as I gained and appreciated the addition of many new Jewish mothers and fathers in my life. As a TBE family, we work really hard, and we play even harder. Our caring community is a blessing, and has supported me throughout the many turns of my journey.
Bayn adam l’haveiro – between you and your friends. Temple Beth Elohim introduced me and gave me the opportunity to work with and learn from many colleagues and congregants over the years, many of whom I consider to be my teachers and friends. (Hillel was on to something, I guess). Each member of our community, and especially our staff, has had a significant impact on who I am as a person and professional. But I need to specifically thank Rabbi Sisenwine, Rabbi Saphire, Cantor Sufrin, Rabbi Franklin and Rabbi Sherman for the light that they have and continue to provide in my life. And to Alison, Judy, Judy, Nancy, Hannah, Leah and Susan – thank you. And to Henry, Harriet, Mike and Pam – your leadership, love and guidance for our community, along with our amazing lay leaders and volunteers, is what enables it all. We could not have done what we have in the past 12 years without your support, vision and care. My sincere gratitude.
Bayn adam l’Yahadut – between you and Jewish living and learning. I had known I wanted to become a Jewish educator and youth professional for many years, but it was Temple Beth Elohim that challenged me to think about how I wanted to continue my learning and exploration of Jewish learning and living for myself, in addition to that which I was helping to provide our youth.
Bayn adam l’kehilah – between you and your community, both sacred and secular. There are a lot of beautiful moments, memories, laughs, tears, hugs, fist bumps and smiles that fill 12 years of holy relationships. To have been a small part of the unique and exciting Jewish journeys of our amazing community of teens in BM3T, Havayah and beyond - I am truly blessed to be part of such a kehilah kedoshah (holy community). You can all check that one off on your bingo cards now :)
Bayn adam l’am – between you and Jewish peoplehood, wherever Jews are. The roots and wings that TBE has given me and many of my colleagues over the years has had a significant impact not only on our community, but on the broader Jewish community as well. The Rashi School is blessed to have Rabbi Clevenger as part of their community. Rachel Happel has and continues to change the landscape of Jewish experiential education in Greater Boston and beyond. Now Rabbi Sarah Marion is serving her first congregation in Baltimore, and Ariel Milan-Polisar is currently in Israel for her first year at HUC-JIR. And now Laura and I are both blessed to take what we have done and learned from our TBE family to help strengthen the fabric of youth engagement throughout the Boston Jewish community.
Bayn adam l’Yisrael – between you and Israel. Through writing curriculum, designing Shabbatonim, attending conferences and speakers, becoming a Birthright Israel Fellow and staffing URJ Kesher trips, TBE pushed me from not having much of a relationship with Israel to think about how Israel could be a significant and meaningful part of my work.
Bayn adam l’olam – between you and the whole world. The acts of tikkun olam (repairing the world) that we have done together have forever changed me. From soup kitchens to Songs of Love to homeless shelters to breakfast for backpacks to reading at schools to volunteering with the Special Olympics to community organizing…I can only say thank you for giving me many, many opportunities to join hand in hand and, together, work to repair our fractured world.
Bayn adam l’Makom – between you and God: belief or disbelief; either way, a willingness to wrestle with the Devine. This one’s pretty easy. .מַה־נּוֹרָ֖א הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה אֵ֣ין זֶ֗ה כִּ֚י אִם־בֵּ֣ית אֱלֹהִ֔ים Mah norah hamakom hazeh, ayn zeh ki im Beit Elohim. 12 years ago, I thought I was simply taking a job. But I soon realized that, in deed, as it is written in our community’s core text from the book of Genesis, “how awe-inspiring is this place! This is none other than a Beit Elohim.” (Genesis 28:17)
12 years. So immensely blessed. And as Rabbi Tarfon teaches us, we do not have to complete the work…but we must not desist from it. .לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמוֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה (Pirke Avot 2:21) As I begin the next chapter in my Jewish journey, I look forward to continuing to connect with our TBE family in new and different ways, both as a congregant and in my role as Associate Director of the North Shore Teen Initiative. I am excited to watch our youth community continue to flourish under the skilled guidance of our team.
…and, to think, for me - it all started with a little red book.
Thank you. Shabbat Shalom.