One of the primary reasons I entered the Jewish professional world, and ultimately chose the rabbinate, was to share my passion for Judaism and Jewish life with others. From a very young age, I loved being Jewish. I had a great rabbi who was engaging and clearly passionate about his role in the lives of his congregation and greater community. I was active in youth group and Jewish camping, and in college I switched hats and became a youth group advisor, religious school teacher and camp counselor. It was a natural fit, and I loved facilitating positive Jewish experiences for the next generation of Jews.
Clearly, I made it into a career. But because there are so many other elements of this job, some equally as wonderful, and others not nearly as pleasant, there are times when I need to step back and reflect upon why I chose this path, and what I am doing to fulfill my needs.
This past Sunday was one of those rediscovery moments. My wife, three children, and I drove up to Great Barrington, MA to attend new camper orientation at Eisner – one of our regional URJ camps. My 10 year old, Daphne, will be a first time camper this summer. She is so nervous to go away, since she has never really spent any real time away from both of her parents.
We arrived. We broke up into age and session groups with other families. We toured the camp together. Then Daphne went off with her peers and some counselors while Shara, Zoe, Jason and I convened in a room with all the other parents and siblings not attending camp for some Q&A.
By the time we picked up Daphne and it was time to go home, Daphne had made a friend that she intends to bunk with during the three weeks she will be at Eisner. She was excited for the summer, and much less nervous. And even Zoe and Jason were excited to get to go back and spend a week there with me during the time I’ve committed to be a rabbinic faculty member.
Being back at camp, and introducing my children to the magical world of Jewish (overnight) camping, reminded me of the impact certain experiences have upon the lives of young people. I began to reflect upon the students who I work with towards B’nai Mitzvah, the Confirmation students I am meeting with as we prepare for their service next week, the youth group kids who always have a great time at their functions, the nursery and religious school kids I see regularly before, during and after class, and the kids we honored this past Friday night for being a part of the Jr. Choir. And I took a deep breath…and I smiled.
As most people who know me can attest, to varying degrees, my calling to the rabbinate, and my current post as rabbi of The Reform Temple of Rockland (formerly Temple Beth El of Rockland County) is challenging and filled with demands…which is why I need to constantly remind myself of the impact that I can make upon others, youth and mature alike: inspiring others, like my rabbi…and my teachers, and youth advisors, and camp counselors inspired me, to love being Jewish. I can live with all of the mishegas as long as I cling to the big picture and what it all means.