June 14, 2013
Thanks to HaShem and to all my beloved teachers and friends, it's happened. On 2 Tammuz, June 10, I received smichah and was ordained a rabbi and teacher for the people Israel. (I guess I'm going to have to rename this blog pretty soon. Any ideas?)
Here is an edited version of my remarks on that night:
For over a decade, I had the honor to serve the people of California, working for an elected official for whom I have enormous respect, former State Senator Sheila Kuehl. I loved public service for the opportunity to earn my living through helping people individually and advancing social justice. When that job ended, I searched for equally meaningful work in which my spiritual being could flourish.
Here in Los Angeles, I learned to pray with the loving, caring, decent Jews of Congregation Kol Ami and Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park. I studied the intricacies of Jewish thought at Hebrew Union College with such leading thinkers as Rabbi Doctor Rachel Adler and Rabbi Doctor Tamara Eskenazi. I learned to daven Shlomo tunes at the Shtibl Minyan and walked picket lines with carwasheros along with Bend the Arc.
In Judaism, I found a holistic way of life in which social justice imperatives are combined with daily courtesy, study, prayer and acts of kindness. I found dear friends who became chosen family. To those of you who are here tonight—words are insufficient to express my gratitude for the love and support you have given me. Without exaggeration—I could not have done this without you.
Why AJR? Because, there, Jews of all denominations and no denomination study together. Because women in sheitlech and women in tfilin pray together and become friends. Because the Torah is rigorous, and the teachers are generous with their knowledge and caring and time. Because it is a mussar school, a school where students engage in self-reflection and group support for the work of learning and molding our midot, the aspects of our character.
In Shmot (Exodus) chapter 20, we are told, “make for Me an altar of earth—adamah…” The first human, the Adam was composed of earth. So God instructs us: ‘make Me an altar from what you’re made of.” This is what AJR teaches us to do.