I don’t know many blogs in English and written by an Israeli rabbi who made alyah so I was glad when I found Rabbi Barry Leff’s blog via a Jewish forum a couple of years ago. Thank you Rabbi Leff; I feel honored that you accepted to be part of this series of interviews.
Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
“Businessman by day, rabbi by night.” Father to five daughters ranging in age from 27 to 9. Something of an overachiever: PhD in business, rabbi, flight instructor, black belt, SCUBA Divemaster, etc.
What is your religious background (if any)?
When I was growing up, “the shul we didn’t go to” was Orthodox. Totally secular for 25 years, then I discovered the beauty and wisdom of Judaism, quit my job as VP Marketing for a high-tech company in California’s Silicon Valley and went back to school to become a Conservative rabbi. I now belong to two shuls, one Orthodox, one Conservative.
When and why did you decide to make aliyah?
It would have been about March of 2005. My congregation in Toledo started discussions about renewing my contract, and I had to decide between finishing out my career in Ohio, and making aliyah. We decided to make aliyah primarily for two reasons:
1) Israel is the most exciting thing to happen to the Jewish people in 2,000 years, and we wanted to be a part of it. Or as Arnie Eisen, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary put it, “Israel is to important to sit back and let other people blow it.”
2) For a religiously observant Jew, there is no place in the world that is “home” the way Israel is. Three times a day we pray to be gathered to Israel. How many times a day do you have to say something before you believe it?
See here l for a fuller explanation.
Where in Israel do you live and is there a special reason you live there?
Jerusalem. Several reasons:
• My wife’s attitude was “Jerusalem or bust.” If you’re going to live in the holy land, you might as well live in the holy city.
• We already had a lot of friends in the Jerusalem area
• We felt Jerusalem offered the best educational opportunities for our children: we wanted a dati school, but one that had a relatively modern attitude. You can find them in Jerusalem, harder to find elsewhere.
When and why did you start blogging?
Sometime around 2003 I guess, someone who read one of my sermons thought it was good, and offered to post it on his web site. That evolved into a blog, and it became more than just a place to post my sermons.
Have you been surprised by the way your blogging activity has evolved over the years?
Not really. It was a fairly natural progression from sermons to commentary.
To what extent do you feel your blogging activity reflects on the global perception of Israel?
Not sure how much impact it has: I only get about 1,000 visitors a month, so numerically it’s not that big. However, the image I present of Israel, is, I believe overall positive. I am frequently critical of the Israeli government, but that’s a good thing because many people outside Israel think Israelis just don’t “get it.” I help show that there are some of us who get it.
What post(s) are you most proud of?
I collected my favorites into a book. You can see the table of contents and a sample chapter here. See also the Aliyah one above, your mission in life and this dvar Torah.
Would you care to share a blog or two you enjoy?
Rabbi Jason Miller’s blog
Six Kids and a Full Time Job
The Traveller Within