‘I’ll start by saying that I grew up knowing very specifically that I didn’t want to be a rabbi.’
“I’ll start by saying that I grew up knowing very specifically that I didn’t want to be a rabbi. And the reason I had that question posed in my head is because my father’s a rabbi and every single person who I met growing up asked me, ‘Do you want to be a rabbi just like your father?’ And the answer that I had formed in my head was a very concrete, ‘No.’ I always had a strong Jewish identity. I went to Jewish summer camp, went to religious school…but I just knew it wasn’t my path.
“When I got to college, things changed. It was a period of self-discovery. On a whim, I took an intro to Hebrew Bible class. I thought it was an ‘easy A’ because I know all these stories! It turned out not just to be more challenging than I thought, but also very revelatory. It made me think about sacred Jewish text in a way that was deep, meaningful and beyond the surface.
The question became eventually, what do you want to do with your life? I realized that it had something to do with creating a Judaism that was different than what I grew up with — something that would engage the future generations.
“And that was kind of the hook. I didn’t want to become a rabbi just because of that one class, but I did want to take another class. And so eventually I found myself teaching at a religious school nearby my university, studied abroad in Israel, and found an affinity to Judaism in a way that I never really felt before. The question became eventually, what do you want to do with your life? I realized that it had something to do with creating a Judaism that was different than what I grew up with — something that would engage the future generations. The one thing that’s very consistent about Judaism is that it constantly changes from each generation to the next, and that’s partly what’s kept our tradition alive for thousands of years. It’s the ability to adapt, to be creative. And so, although I’m a rabbi like my father in that we share the same profession, I’m very much a rabbi unlike my father. And he’s proud of that.
“When you become a rabbi, one of the traditions is that the president of the college ordains you. But when one of your parents is a rabbi, they also take part in that ordination. My father met me in front of the arch and offered me blessings as I was literally becoming a rabbi. That was one of the more special moments I’ve had with him, where his role as a rabbi is directly associated with who I am today.”