Falling in Love
Seven years ago I stood before you for the first time – one month after receiving rabbinic ordination, one month before meeting Jeremy and beginning the journey that led me to have my own family. I had become a rabbi to do faith-based social justice work, and assumed I would be at Sha’arei Shalom and in the congregational rabbinate for a year, maybe two, tops. But something happened that first year, that has continued ever since. I fell in love.
First I fell in love romantically with Jeremy. But also I fell in love with this community and with the beautiful experience of being your rabbi. I chose to stay all this time, including five years AFTER I began working almost full-time at my dream job doing the faith based social justice work I had always planned to do.
I fell in love with the way that people in this community care for each other, the way the children ask deep questions and the adults take the time to answer.
I remember in my first year, how Leah, Becca, Josie, and Ryan formed a dance team and performed after Rosh Hashanah services a dance about t’shuvah and transformation to Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. It was adorable, but it was also one of the most real expressions of what the HIgh Holidays could mean that I have ever witnessed.
I fell in love with the way that people take Judaism seriously here. It isn’t that Sha’arei Shalom is religiously observant in the traditional sense. But students and parents – including popular and athletic boys – regularly cry at their b’nei mitzvah because they know that something deep and meaningful is happening in their lives. Congregants come to me with open hearts after hearing my sermons and ask real questions about their lives. Kids and families come to me to share how the songs we sing have permeated your homes and car trips
And I also fell in love with the models of family that I have witnessed here — where parents are deeply invested in their children’s learning, where kids are bursting with so much energy, passion, and curiosity, where elders and young people are connected with one another.
A Bittersweet Crossroads
So that as I have been blessed to grow my own family, you have inspired me to envision building that kind of loving family for myself. You have inspired me to be the kind of open hearted and focused mom I want to be.
As I have learned from all of you what I want from family and motherhood, I have come to this bittersweet crossroads. Now, I still love this community and the individuals in it. I still love being your rabbi. But in order to be the kind of mom I want to be, the kind of mom you have inspired me to want to be, I know need more time to be with my family, especially as this new person enters the world, and while my children are little and still WANT me to be their whole world.
I know that this isn’t goodbye forever, since I will be back to lead b’nei mitzvah in the coming year. And, as has been true for me, some of my past rabbis have always remained one of my rabbis. So, if I can be one of you rabbis and continue to support you, I hope to.But this is a farewell from my role as the rabbi of Sha’arei Shalom and from the time when I will see you regularly. So as I prepare for this leavetaking, I want to offer some thank yous, and some blessings.
Kids, I want to thank you for all your singing and thinking and asking hard questions. The Jewish tradition is yours to inherit. I hope you can use it to add meaning to your lives and to transform the world into the one you want to pass on to YOUR children.
Adults, I want to thank you for demonstrating love in so many different ways – by modeling what it looks like to take community seriously, to take caring for other people seriously, for taking seriously your own journey to be the best person you can be.
Elders, I want to thank you for teaching all of us that learning, praying, participating is a life-long journey, for modeling care and connection and wisdom in every stage of life.
To the ritual committee, I want to thank you for being my partners in creating spiritual and religious experience here at Sha’arei Shalom. So many long meetings at the Heckers and the Spitzers filled with practical decisions, off-topic storytelling, theological discussions, and lots of popcorn. You all work so hard to make this community a spiritual home and I am grateful to know that I am leaving that project in your capable hands
To our dedicated board, our wise school committee, our amazing teachers, to our incomparable Shabbat Live band, to all our powerful lay leaders, thank you for your tireless work to make this community your own and to make my job as rabbi so much more enjoyable.
You all do so much more than is normal in typical congregations. You OWN the community. You make everything happen. Where in other synagogues a professionalized staff manages and makes decisions, produces websites and newsletters and social programming, plans classes and curricula and school events, here at Sha’arei Shalom, YOU make this all happen with tireless dedication and willingness to go above and beyond. The gift you give is generous, but it also makes Sha’arei Shalom a different kind of place from those professionalized synagogues with huge budgets and staffs but often tiny attendance, participation, or personal investment.
Because of your dedication, you have created a community to use American terms – for the people and by the people. You have created a community where each of you matters, where people know and care about each other deeply. You have created a community that is nimble, that can shift and change as is needed because YOU are the ones making the decisions.
As I leave my role as rabbi, I offer some blessings.
May you be blessed to keep prioritizing Sha’arei Shalom’s children, knowing that they are our future and our legacy
May you be blessed to continue to develop and decentralize the leadership of this community, so that no one person or small group has the burden of handling everything.
May you be blessed to keep exploring how Sha’arei Shalom can balance the values of Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Chasadim, learning, prayer, and social justice.
I know that our expansion of social action programming was a concession for some, who followed because it was so important to me. And yet I couldn’t have been prouder of our congregation than when our middle schoolers Abby, Rachel, and Josie met with Senator Spilka this spring to share why they believed as Jews and young people that MA should protect immigrant families. Or when Abby, Jordana, and Jessica collected thousands of dollars worth of sheets for the Bed for Every Child Initiative.
So kids, may you be blessed to be our social justice leaders, and continue that work when I am gone.
May you be blessed to you find a rabbi who truly understands how special this community is, who falls in love with you as I have and comes to be loved and treated with honor and respect.
And finally, may you be blessed to continue to make this community a reflection of the world you want to create.
And let us say, AMEN.