Pesach Post 3 – The People who Love Stories

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The particularity of the way we celebrate Pesach is not through a metaphysical experience but via a story. The haggadah declares: ‘even if we were all wise, all understanding, all experienced and all versed in the torah, we would nevertheless be obligated to recount the story of the departure from Egypt…’

For Maimonides, you must imagine you were a slave in Egypt, that you left and were redeemed.

To remember and relive the redemption, the haggadah provides guidelines but the story will be told differently by and for each of us. Dr William Kolbrener writes: ‘Through the description of the ‘Four Children’ in the seder, the hagada acknowledges that children are different, and that parents must tell the story of the redemption in such a way that their own children can best hear it. Only in this way does telling of the Exodus lead to da’at, a knowing that makes the abstract ideal felt through experience – whether for the wise man alone in his study or for the second grader, part of the seder for the first time.

To ensure a meaningful storytelling, one which provides an opportunity to grow through da’at, it is important to choose and read a haggadah a few weeks before Pesach. Read some of it beforehand: in the doctor’s waiting-room, on the train, in between two assignments, before you go to bed – whatever works for you.

One of my favourite haggadot, for its wonderful and engaging essays, is Rabbi Sacks’ Haggadah – a new version is available form Koren Publishers.

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat has two versions of the same haggadah that can be downloaded from her website – one abridged and one expanded. I have used the expanded version over the years and cannot recommend it enough. The e-version also means that you can download it and select what you want to keep.

What haggadah/haggadot are you planning to use?

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Old Book Revisited

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Don’t we all have books we like to revisit once in a while? Books that have inspired us, that we have enjoyed and read several times. They are sitting on our bookshelves ready to be picked up and enjoyed again. For me such book is How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household by Blu Greenberg. I picked it up last night for reference and realised that I had never written about it on this blog.

How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household deals with religious observance from a Modern Orthodox point of view. Blu Greenberg explores the different mitzvot and how she and her family observe them. It falls into three parts. The first one is devoted to regular observance such as Shabbat, Kashrut and prayers. The second one examines the life cycle while the last one covers the Jewish year.

Don’t be put off by the title; How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household is certainly one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. I discovered it by chance via the Internet and have read it several times. It reads like a novel and is thought-provoking at the same time. Blu Greenberg’s approach is extremely sensitive and has none of the holier-than-thou tone of more recent right-wing Orthodox writings. This is a great book which encourages people to be more observant by showing that it is possible to incorporate meaningful practice into one’s life.

Blu Greenberg is the co-founder and first president of JOFA, The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, and an outspoken woman on the position of women in Judaism.

How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household was first published in 1985 but has not aged one bit. Obviously it has become a treasured and authoritative reference as there now exists a Kindle version of this book.

Living a Year of Kaddish: A Memoir

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The day after he celebrated his 50th birthday, Ari Goldman got a call from Israel announcing his father’s death. Goldman could not attend the funeral but he tore his shirt and began the Jewish bereavement process. He sat shiva for his father for only one day, since Sukkot started the following day but decided to undertake the mourning ritual of saying kaddish for his father (as required by Jewish law). He also proceeded to write the story of his year of kaddish in Living a Year of Kaddish: A Memoir.

In traditional Judaism, as part of the Jewish mourning ritual, the sons (and some argue the children) of the deceased are expected to say kaddish (a prayer praising God) every day during the morning, afternoon, and evening prayer services for 11 months, with a minyan (a group of 10 men in Orthodox Judaism).

Ari L. Goldman is a professor of journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a former New York Times journalist and the author of three books, including The Search for God at Harvard.

The book is broken into sections for each season of Goldman’s kaddish. He writes about his family, his beliefs and his thoughts about death and about being survived by his own children.

‘For me, kaddish, was as much of a chain as it was a prayer. It was a chain that in some way continued to connect me to my parents, and will some day connect me to my children.’

His relationship with his father was complex. As his parents had divorced when Goldman was a young child, they had never been very close. In addition Ari’s father had moved to Israel when he was 70 years old but because his father had been a devout jew, Goldman is aware of how much he owes him.

The divorce had had a strong impact on Goldman and he was still trying to come to terms with it even as an adult.

‘I was, for the first time in forty-years, no longer the child of divorce. Being the child of divorce had significantly shaped the person I had become (…). I clung tenaciously to Orthodox Judaism, the faith of both my parents, as one would cling to an ancestral home, because, with divorce, there is no ancestral home.’

Goldman had lost his mother four years before, and during his year of saying kaddish for his father, he compares and contrasts the grieving process for each of them; he also looks at how his mourning affects his role as a father, a brother and a husband.

Living a Year of Kaddish: A Memoir is not just about mourning a deceased father, it is about being the member of a religious community, about your responsibility in being part of a minyan so that your fellow Jews can fulfill this mitzvah too, about the other people you meet because they are also saying kaddish for a parent – including a Conservative woman.

‘Every one of the people I got to know in my year of kaddish has stayed with me. Each experience shaped me…each person and each experience helped mold my consciousness about life and death and prayer.’

Living a Year of Kaddish: A Memoir is a profound and touching personal narrative about mourning a parent. It is also book that strongly emphasises the relevance of this traditional Jewish ritual for today’s Jews.

‘To me, kaddish is more for the living than the dead.’

For more information on kaddish:
Kaddish, a Memorial Prayer in Praise of God, by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
Women and Kaddish, by Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
Women and Kaddish, by Barabra Gaims-Spiegel

Jewish Ethics and Social Justice

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I was privileged to receive a review copy of Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz‘s first book, Jewish Ethics and Social Justice. Yanklowitz is the Founder and President of Uri L’Tzedek, the first and only Orthodox Jewish social justice organization and a columnist for a number of Jewish publications.

Jewish Ethics and Social Justice is an anthology of articles. They were written over the past few years and many have been published in various publications such as The Jewish Press ,The Jewish Week, Conversations, HaAretz, etc.

All the essays are deeply rooted in our every day life. Rabbi Yanklowitz writes about a variety of subjects such as child labor, the role of women in Judaism and in the world, vegetarianism, globalization, the Davos World Forum, life in prison, hotel workers, and so much more. He starts by presenting a topic, then explains what the Jewish tradition has to say about it – drawing from the Talmudic sages, Medieval commentators as well as contemporary Jewish leaders. He then brings his own conclusions on the topic and shows immediate and concrete implications in our post-modern society.

In addition, Rabbi Yanklowitz encourages us to act as a community and constantly reminds us of our collective responsibility as a unique people, making sense of our presence in the diaspora as “light to the nations”. Thus, he never shuns disturbing topics such as the Rubashkin scandal or money laundering among the Orthodox community.

Obviously, what appeals to me may not appeal to other people, but I found that most essays are thought-provoking, engaging and easy to read.

The 54-essay format is also a great idea because s it means the book could be used by reading groups – as well as individuals – on a weekly basis following the Torah reading cycle.

Those who are familiar with this blog know how important it is to me to stress the relevance of Judaism in our time and within our environment, what Rabbi Yanklowitz calls “Street Torah”. This is exactly what this book does. It challenges the reader and won’t leave you indifferent.

Summer Reading

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In a recent post West Bank Mama writes about her summer reading and asks what is on her readers’ reading lists. Feeling that I wished to develop a few things about my own, I have decided to write this post as an answer.

Following a year (in the Jewish sense of the term) of little religious reading and a lot of frustration in my shul attendance and religious practice for a variety of reasons, I feel the need to interrogate my beliefs and observance. Therefore most of the books I plan to read over the summer are connected with Judaism one way or another.

One People, Two Worlds – a Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues that Divide Them. This is the book I am currently reading. It is quite thought-provoking even if I find myself uncomfortably sitting in between these two views of Judaism. I also admire that these two men took the time to answer each other via letters and explore their differences in an honest and open way.

After reading Rabbi Fink’s review of The Search for God at Harvard by Ari Goldman – an Orthodox Jew who spent a year at Harvard Divinity School – I wanted to read it for myself. Being a Jew in a mostly non-Jewish environment, I thought that his struggles would probably echo my own.

In the Narrow Places by Erica Brown, a book that examines the meaning of the three weeks looks quite interesting. It is no longer available in France but can be downloaded via Kindle.

This morning I received The Pages in Between by Erin Einhorn – a book Leora had suggested for a lesson plan on the Jews who emigrated to the USA after WW2. Another fellow-blogger Rayna-Eliana added her own recommendations and I will most certainly get a few more books on the topic.

Last but certainly not least, I plan to write a review of Sacks Rosh HaShana Mahzor.

Interviewing a Rabbi – Part 3

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Netivot Shalom readily agreed to participate in this short series of interviews. Thank you Rabbi for your availibility and your time.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

My name is Menachem Creditor, and I’ve been a rabbi for almost 10 years. I currently serve as the Rabbi at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, California, and also lead an effort called Bay Area Masorti. I blog at menachemcreditor.org, and write music and poetry.

Can you tell us about your congregation and/or job?

My congregation is an amazing place, full of ritual participation and creative energy. Netivot Shalom was founded 22 years ago by a group of Jews interested in serious adult learning and davening, and has grown into a community of 415 households, including many intermarried families, multi-generation families, single people, and many of the founders. My job is to be the public face of our community, as well as nurture the caring (chesed) committees, so that we can be there for each other in happy and sad times.

What is your religious background (if any)? Is there a rabbinical tradition in your family?

I grew up in a religious home, with Shabbat and singing, learning and teaching. My mother is a powerful Jewish educator and my father is a rabbi.

When and why did you decide to become a rabbi?

I knew for 20 years that I did NOT want to be a rabbi. This was, I believe, mostly my way of differentiating myself from my father. When the Jewish a cappella group Pizmon, from List College, visited my shul for a Shabbat during my high school years, something woke up inside of me, allowing me to dream of being the kind of rabbi I was inside, which resembles but is not the same as the (wonderful) rabbi my father is. I sang my heart out that Shabbat, and haven’t stopped since. Once that was unleashed, many moments conspired to bring me to this moment. I’ve never looked back once.

Where did you study? Any particular reason you chose this rabbinical school?

I attended the Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. I chose this school because it was (and remains) the heart of a Jewish vision that combines incredible intellectual rigor and a long, rich history of Jewish yearning. There are many other places to grow Jewishly, to learn to be a religious leader, but JTS brought me to a place of clarity and historical appreciation, to a level of textual fluency and spiritual awareness I don’t believe I’d have discovered anywhere else.

Is being a rabbi very different from what you expected?

Being a rabbi is different, on a daily basis, from anything I could even expect today. Yes, I had an inkling of the world of a rabbi. But every day is something brand new, and unpredictable. Perhaps the one thing I simply could not have understood before being a rabbi is the grandeur of being trusted with people’s life-stories, being an emulsifier of the Divine in the world. I could have used those words, but the experience defies communicating.

What do you like best about your job?

I am humbled to be trusted. The ways in which relationships unfold within community are all based on being worthy of trust. When I remember that all people expect me to be is myself, then the relationships can be maintained and deepened.

What do you like least about it?

I like least that there is only one of me. I wouldn’t change a thing about my job, but will never place it above my family. More of me would, I hope, accomplish more sacred work.

What sort of misconceptions do people have about your job?

People think that I am sad when they share their hard moments with me, that I feel put upon to visit them in the hospital or conduct a loved one’s funeral. I am largely inspired by these experiences and the gift of simply being present.


Do you have some sort of contact with rabbis from other Jewish denominations or other religious leaders? Why or why not?

Yes! My Reform, Orthodox, Renewal, and Reconstructionist colleagues and I meet all the time. Sometimes at communal events, sometimes at shul, sometimes socially. So too do I meet with other religious leaders. Why do I? Because I love them. Because we need each other. Because I believe that the only way to experience God is by encountering another of God’s “masks”, human beings who shine with the Divine Image.

What are your plans for the future concerning your job and/or congregation?

My congregation is growing faster than anyone could have predicted, from 280 households four years ago, to 415 (and counting) today. My job will need to shift, and the staff will need to grow. But this is the “simpler” part of future-planning. The hardest part of my “job” and the congregation’s future is the work of evolving culture and sacred memory. Those founders of the shul who remain active have devoted their souls to the birth of a community that is reaching adolescence. That’s never easy. My role is to allow the adolescent to continue self-differentiating, to make manifest the love this precious evolving community contains as it continues to become itself, and to help the founders of the community feel their hearts connected to a naturally shifting organism. All of this is purposeful. All of this is worthy. And it is a sacred task that will require more skills tomorrow than I possess today. I will do my best to grow with the holy burden, and will look to my community to learn with me how to guide our shul well.

Do you use the Internet in your job? How?

All the time. I blog, tweet, FB, and email incessantly. The world we live in calls anyone who thinks their message is worthwhile, or important, to engage in viral communication.

Interviewing a Rabbi – part 2

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Phyllis who blogs at ImaBima kindly agreed to take part in this new series where I interview rabbis. Thank you Phyllis for your great contribution.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

My name is Phyllis Sommer, I’m a mom of four kids and a Reform rabbi.

Can you tell us about your congregation and/or job?

I am the associate rabbi of a congregation of approximately 950 families in the north suburbs of Chicago.

What is your religious background (if any)? Is there a rabbinical tradition in your family?

I was raised in an active Reform Jewish family. We were very involved and
observant as a family. One of my maternal uncles is an Orthodox rabbi, but I
wouldn’t call that a family tradition.

When and why did you decide to become a rabbi?

My father is a teacher, and I always wanted to be a teacher…he spent a lot of
time trying to talk me out of it! So…I made a little end-run around the idea
and I spend much of my time teaching! I had a lot of incredible rabbinic role
models when I was at Jewish summer camp and in youth group, and I saw the path very clearly for me. At 16, I was voted “most likely to be a rabbi” amongst my summer camp peers, but it wasn’t until my first trip to Israel at age 19 that I solidified my decision.

Where did you study? Any particular reason you chose this rabbinical school?

I received my ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of
Religion. I never considered going anywhere else, since I’ve always been such an active part of the Reform movement. I chose to go to the Cincinnati campus primarily because I am so connected to the Midwest. In retrospect, Cincinnati was a great place to live and learn, but I would have loved to experience the “coastal” Judaism that I hear so much about…

Is being a rabbi very different from what you expected?

There are a lot more administrative details than I ever expected, but overall,
I’m living the dream!

What do you like best about your job?

I love being with people when they need me, at liminal moments in their lives. It is such an incredible honor to share important moments like births, deaths and other milestones.

What do you like least about it?

While I love leading others and sharing holidays and Shabbat with them, I do
wish that I could spend many quiet Shabbats with my family at home. (Oh, and I don’t like people who are mean…which sometimes they are.)

What sort of misconceptions do people have about your job?

The funniest is when people swear in front of me and then say something like, “oh, sorry, rabbi…” as though I have particularly sensitive ears because I am a clergy member.

Do you have some sort of contact with rabbis from other Jewish denominations or other religious leaders? Why or why not?

We have a local clergy association that consists of the faith leaders of all the
houses of worship in our small suburb (amazing how many there are in one small town!), and we have regular meetings. A few years ago, we did a “pulpit swap” and I spoke at Mass at the Catholic church. I am also a member of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, which consists of rabbis of all denominations. This group takes an annual rabbinic mission and five years ago I traveled to Russia with a group of about 25 Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis. It was a great experience and gave me some wonderful connections with many rabbis all over Chicago. We’re so lucky here to have a great community of many rabbis.

What are your plans for the future concerning your job and/or congregation?

I am currently in my 8th year as the associate rabbi, and I’ve recently signed a five year extension.

Do you use the Internet in your job? How?

I love the Internet, and I am always looking for new ways to use it in my work. Much of my online life connects me to my colleagues and friends, and I feel like that has a great impact on the kind of rabbi that I am. It helps me to learn and to grow as a person and rabbi.

Interviewing a Rabbi

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Interviewing rabbis is not easy; we all know how busy they are so when Rabbi Josh Yuter agreed to take part in this new series and replied to my questions, I felt honored. I hope that you will all enjoy this interview as much as I did. Thank you Rabbi for your participation.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

My name is Josh Yuter and I have been the Rabbi of The Stanton St. Shul in New York’s historic Lower East Side since 2008. I’ve also worked professionally as a computer programmer primarily with web application development.

I’ve been blogging since 2003, now at www.JoshYuter.com, and I created and currently manage www.JewishGuitarChords.com archive. I have diverse interests, many of which I incorporate into a Jewish context, and I make horrible and often esoteric puns.

Can you tell us about your congregation and/or job?

The community of The Stanton St. Shul is one of the most diverse I have ever encountered, which is quite remarkable due to its relatively small size and being an Orthodox congregation.

Our membership ranges from recent college graduates to seniors who have spent most of their lives in the Lower East Side. We have members who have grown up observant and attended yeshivot and others with virtually no background and who might not be observant in their private lives. On a typical Shabbat you can find someone in a suit and tie sitting next to someone in jeans and a t-shirt, and no one is particularly bothered.

The motto of the synagogue is “all are welcome; all will feel welcome” and the true uniqueness of the community is its ability to live up to this standard.

What is your religious background (if any)? Is there a rabbinical tradition in your family? When and why did you decide to become a rabbi?

My father has been a pulpit Rabbi for most of my life, though I would not categorize him as a “typical” Orthodox affiliated rabbi. For the purposes of this interview I would best describe his approach as “academic” in that religious texts must be understood critically and their interpretations must fit within the rules the grammar and philology. Perhaps more controversial is the formalistic approach to Jewish law which often challenges the accepted status quo and encourages others to do the same.

Being raised in this environment, my initial interests in going to rabbinical school was not professional, but practical. Most of the subjects learned in rabbinical school such as kashrut, Shabbat, niddah, etc. are laws which are relevant to any observant Jew. My intent was to learn the primary sources with the guidance of experts and the accountability of examinations such that at the end of my program I’d feel confident that I’d either know the halakha or I’d be able to find the answer with relative ease.

Where did you study? Any particular reason you chose this rabbinical school? Is being a rabbi very different from what you expected?

For rabbinical school I studied at Yeshiva University, primarily because there were no other options at that time for a “modern orthodox” rabbinical school. YU’s main competition today is Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, but YCT only came into existence in my second year of rabbinical school and there was absolutely no reason to switch. Not only was YCT still in the process of figuring out its full curriculum, but in terms of complete rabbinic training, YU provided a better overall program for future rabbis.

The most significant and underutilized advantage of Yeshiva University is that it is in my opinion the most pluralistic institution of Orthodox Judaism in the world, defining “pluralistic” as the number of different ideologies and approaches to Judaism under one roof. I had the pleasure of studying Talmud in different styles – including “academic Talmud” in YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School for Judaic Studies and learning halakha from different perspectives. Even if I did not agree with an approach or a conclusion, being exposed to contradictory ideas is crucial for religious development. On a personal level I could be proven wrong in which case I’d correct a mistake or at the very least I’d have a better understanding as to why I would reject one idea over another. Furthermore, such exposure is crucial for anyone to be an effective Orthodox Rabbi since at some point, any Rabbi will have to confront people whose opinions and perspectives differ from his own, and the more one understands how another side operates, the better a rabbi can respond.

What do you like best about your job? / What do you like least about it?

Like any job, being a pulpit rabbi can alternate between the frustrating and the gratifying depending on the day. The most gratifying aspects about being a pulpit rabbi for me are times when I can engage with members Jewishly either through teaching classes or simply by being a part of their lives. Obviously this is much more pleasant in better times. I cannot imagine anyone enjoying grief counseling or officiating a funeral, even though to be the religious representative in such a time is less a responsibility than it is an honor.

What sort of misconceptions do people have about your job?

In terms of The Rabbinate in general, people often assume that my synagogue operates like theirs. Meaning, many people assume that the mutual relationship between a congregation and its rabbi are uniform when in truth every community is unique and what might be “normal” for some could be harmful elsewhere.

In my own shul I’ve worked hard to “lift the veil” so to speak about being a Rabbi, or at least how I operate. Part of this is that I think transparency is beneficial and hopefully will preempt misconceptions in the future.

Do you have some sort of contact with rabbis from other Jewish denominations or other religious leaders? Why or why not?

In 2000-2001 I participated in a fellowship program run by Clal which brought together rabbinical students from other denominations, though my exposure since then has been limited to individual colleagues. This is not so much an ideological decision but a practical one. Above all else, my primary focus is, and I think must be, the development of my own synagogue. Even with my Orthodox colleagues on the Lower East Side, we are all preoccupied with our synagogues that we do not have the time to dialogue regularly. However, I have found my local colleagues to be phenomenal professional resources, and I try to provide whatever assistance I can be to anyone regardless of their denomination.

Do you use the Internet in your job? How?

The internet has been instrumental for my synagogue. Given our limited resources, the internet has been the most efficient cost effective method to engage our membership. Between our email newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, we can readily communicate with our membership and our website allows us to reach out to others. The reality is that people, especially those under 35, use the internet as their primary source of information and we have had numerous people who have found our shul simply by searching Google. Getting people in the door is the hardest part, especially if people don’t know you exist.

What are your plans for the future concerning your job and/or congregation?

In terms of the future of the shul, my goal is to continue our sustained growth. As tempting as it can be to simply fill seats, without a sense of community people can leave just as easily. The biggest challenge I see myself facing is being able to reevaluate where we are in the present and to adjust accordingly. We’ve made extraordinary strides in the past two years to the point where it would not be a stretch to say we are a different shul entirely. While it’s a challenge to see the synagogue anew, all things considered, it’s a wonderful problem to have.

New Ethical Post

My latest post was about a village where quite a number of people had taken it on themselves to hide Jews, and thus save them, although their lives were at stake. In occupied France during WWII, they probably risked being shot (as a deterrent), being sent to jail and/or being deported.

One of my favorite bloggers commented on this post wondering “how common it was to have a cluster of Righteous individuals living in one place? In other words, did more of the Righteous come from places where their neighbors also saved Jews? Or were most Righteous individuals the only ones in their areas helping Jews?”

Her question led me to ask myself whether people (including myself) are more likely to behave morally if they neighbors/friends act ethically or whether they would do so whatever the circumstances.

I have a few ideas on this issue but would love to read what you think before sharing my own thoughts.

And They Shall Be My People

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The latest book I read is And They Shall Be My People by Paul Wilkes. A book I highly recommend.

After following a Catholic priest for a year and writing a bout it Paul Wikes, wanted to repeat the experience but with a Protestant minister. While looking for the right candidate, Wilkes found Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum and made up his mind to follow this Conservative rabbi instead.

In the end he wrote a fascinating book on the every day life of a rabbi, his congregation and his family. in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The book begins in October with a shul meeting where Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum suggests a trip to Israel to his congregants in the hope that the experience will change them and encourage them to follow a more observant life. It ends one year later after the High Holidays.

It is absolutely fascinating to follow Rabby Jay Rosenbaum in his daily life and work although the reader realizes how difficult and frustrating it is to be a rabbi. Rabbi Rosenbaum belongs to the UTJ (Union for Traditional Judaism), something his congregants are quite proud of even if few of them are observant Jews, and we feel the rabbi’s disapointment as he attempts to inspire the Jews he encounters every day by coming up with new ideas and programs.

I also enjoyed the book on a sociological level; it it was quite captivating to read about the life of an American Jewish congregation in the mid-1990s. Thus it was the time when numerous Russian Jews were welcomed by local Jewish communities yet, to everyone’s surprise, they were in no hurry to become shul members, something which is analyzed and explained very thoughtfully in the book.

We also understand how difficult it is for Janine to be the rabbi’s wife and lead a life under the scrutiny of a middle-sized town where all the Jews know each other and where your every action is examined and commented upon. Something which is all the more difficult as her own family lives in Seattle.

Near the end of this chronicle, Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum takes some of his congregants to Israel, even if the trip is not organized the way the rabbi had imagined eight months earlier. There he confronts his own contradictions when he realizes that the step of staying there is as hard for him as it is for his congregants to abandon their mainstream American comfort and step into a more observant life.

Today Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum is the rabbi of Herzl – Ner Tamid, a Conservative Seattle Congregation.