18th Anniversary Dinner
March 10, 2013
Words cannot adequately express the deep sense of gratitude I feel for all of you. I cannot thank Judy & Stuart and their committee enough for all the hard work they did to make this a truly wonderful evening. I must also thank Mark Kaufman and his committee for producing the remarkable journal. I am truly humbled by all the tributes it contains. I also must thank all of you for being here tonight and expressing your support for our shul and for me. All of you – my fellow staff members, charter members of the shul, new members, family and friends – have helped me be your rabbi.
All I have to do is look in the mirror to see where these 18 years have gone! When I arrived at Shaare Tefila I was 32 years old, I had a full head of thick black hair, and I had 2 children and one more on the way. 18 ½ years later the hair is gone and the youngest of my 4 children celebrated his Bar Mitzvah last fall! Time has surely marched on. I could spend a lot of time recounting all the things that happened from 1994 to today but instead I want to share with you what being your rabbi means to me.
First and foremost it means being a part of your lifecycle events. I have been in hospital rooms with you, at cemeteries with you and under the chuppah with you. We have cried and laughed and danced together because that is what Jewish life is all about. It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to be able to be part of the most important events in your life and to provide the religious meaning and imprint on those events. I don’t take my role lightly and in fact I still get anxious when conducting a funeral or a wedding. The blessings are certainly the same but the people and the moments are always different. I will never forget that and I will always be humbled by the fact that you trust me with these moments in your lives.
Secondly I always remember why I became a rabbi. I have always loved being Jewish. My earliest memory is walking to shul with my father and sitting in the front row when I was 4 or 5 in Cinnaminson, NJ. I went to shul every Shabbat and was the regular Torah reader when I was in high school. I was religious vice president of my USY chapter and I worked at Camp Ramah in the Poconos. I graduated from Akiba Hebrew Academy and I received a B.H.L. from Gratz College in Philadelphia. I lived and breathed Jewish and I instinctively knew that I wanted to share that passion with others. It was while spending my junior year at Hebrew University in Jerusalem that my plan of becoming a rabbi became real. Not only could I be wholly and completely Jewish in Jerusalem I studied with the leading Jewish scholars which reinforced my love for Jewish studies. Ever since I have most enjoyed the opportunities to study and learn with you. The weekly Torah and Talmud classes and my talks and discussions on Shabbat are all ways in which we engage together in our sacred tradition. Through that engagement we become enriched and we grow in our Jewish identity.
Since Passover is just 2 weeks away I can use the image of the 4 sons to highlight the next point. We all know that section in the haggadah well where we answer the questions of the wise, wicked, ignorant and simple children. Why are they in the haggadah? To reinforce the point that our community is comprised of all kinds of Jews. No matter our background, no matter our age, no matter anything we all have a place around the “seder table” that is our shul. I always keep in mind no matter what program we do that we always need to be open to everyone. Everything we do in shul has always been with an eye toward making everyone feel as if they are part of a family. Relationship is the buzz word in the Jewish communal world. All agree that Jews are seeking relationships – they are seeking a real place (not facebook or linked in or a blog) where they can meet someone face to face, where they can be cherished for who they are. That has always been our goal as a shul and I’m so glad to be able to stand at the entrance of the sanctuary every Shabbat and welcome you inside.
Being a rabbi has meant being there for you and that sometimes comes at the expense of family. Thankfully I have a remarkable wife who not only supports me in everything I do for you but also encourages me and helps me come up with new ideas and programs. Lenore has been an equal and it’s thanks to her that our children have turned out as well as they have. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than knowing that all of them love being at Camp Ramah in New England and three of them so far want to spend their lives helping and educating others. I am so proud of Elisheva, Ilan, Aliza and Eytan. I also want to express my love and gratitude to my parents and in-laws and my sister in law and brother in law for not only being here today but also recognizing that the only way to celebrate the Jewish holidays together was if they came to us. Thank you for all your support.
This week we begin reading the book of Leviticus. Though it’s filled with sacrificial and ritual law the rabbis always began teaching children Torah from the book of Leviticus. They would do so by putting a drop of honey on each page so that the study of torah would always be sweet. So too I feel that our years together have been sweet. They have been filled with meaning mutual respect. I only pray that our future together will continue to be filled with joy and love and may we continue to grow Jewishly together.