While I don’t usually take advantage of the JOI blog for personal reflections, the marking of my younger son Jesse’s ordination as rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary yesterday affords me the opportunity to do so. I often joke that with his brother Avi and I also rabbis, we can now form our own bet din (although I recognize that Jewish law actually prohibits such a family rabbinical court from functioning—and for good reason).
As one who is often critical of the machinations of the organized Jewish community, such celebrations provoke in me a wellspring of optimism. The boundless energy and font of creativity that emerges from this group of new rabbis augurs well for the Jewish future. They recognize the challenges that they and the community face and are up to the task, unafraid to take bold steps to secure the Jewish future. And we need their energy and perspective.
This group of rabbis really looks nothing like their peers. While they may talk and dress the same way, schooled in the same culture of Western Civilization, this group of mostly young people have sought out a life of meaning grounded in Jewish learning and living. And it is from that deep reservoir that they will continue to gain inspiration in the years ahead—even when the road gets rocky, as it most certainly will.
Even as they are deeply embedded on the so-called “inside” of the Jewish community, I feel certain that they understand what it means to be on the “outside.” This empathy will help them to help others to find a way in, as well, for it is inside the community that they may find an anchor amidst the chaos of what is daily living.
So at this moment, let us all celebrate a joyous Jewish future and luxuriate in this moment. After all, that is what the JOI conference next week (www.Judaism 2030.org) is all about. And when we reach the year 2030, please Gd, let the students who are being ordained this week—Jesse and his classmates—be among those who continue to lead us into the bright future that is theirs and ours to behold.
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