Ah 5779. A new, fresh number to mark the start of a beautiful year ahead. A year when politicians will finally discover harmony across the aisles, weather will be consistent for more than two days in a row, and celebrities will wait longer than one month before getting engaged.
Okay, fine. Most likely, none of the above may come to fruition in the new year. But, one thing is certain: DC-ites are going to find 9 amazing new rabbis bopping around the community this coming year.
We asked these rabbis a few simple questions so we can get to know the Jewish leaders who are here to guide us through the insanity of today’s world…
Q: What’s your resolution for the Jewish New Year?
A: I try to focus on a combination of study, journaling, and reacquainting myself with the melodies of the High Holidays. Every year we approach the High Holidays in a different place, and I never know what themes or piece of prayer will resonate for me. I try to immerse myself in a combination of sources that have attracted me in years past and a mix of new offerings.
This year that has included journaling using prompts from ‘R’ Jordan Braunig (Tufts), listening to Judaism Unbound’s Elul podcast series, and listening to favorite recordings of High Holiday tunes from my childhood.
Q: How is Judaism valuable in your life?
A: I think Judaism is counter-cultural in the coolest ways. Judaism reminds me when it is time to unplug and pause, when the rest of the world is telling me to go, go, go. The Jewish calendar punctuates my weeks and months, reminding me that life moves in cycles, not straight lines. And in an era of 3-second snapchats and 24 hour news headlines, Jewish texts and traditions root me to something that feels rooted and eternal.
A: In 5779, I hope to discover the best vegetarian taco in Washington DC. I’m also going to try journaling again, and maybe this year, make it past buying the notebook, journaling for three days, and then eventually hiding it to shield me from my shame at another failed attempt.
Q: What led you to your decision to become a Rabbi or Clergy member?
A: My initial path was to becoming a physician. During my freshman year in college, I had a powerful learning experience with the campus rabbi at a Shabbat service where I thought to myself, maybe I too, could become a rabbi one day. At the time I was not aware of women rabbis (I had not seen any growing up), and quietly told myself that it was not possible.
Years later, after taking the MCAT, graduating pre-med, and meeting more and more women rabbis, I began to reflect on the path that I was on and recognized that while I loved working with people, creating spaces for healing, and community building, I wanted to find a way to also tap into the spiritual part of my life. I had a life-changing conversation with my then-boyfriend (now husband and partner), where upon hearing my reflections, he asked me, “Is there anything else you have thought about doing? I’ve only heard you talk about becoming a physician.” It was then for the first time since my initial thought about becoming a rabbi back in college that I said out loud, “I thought about becoming a rabbi.” And as they say, the rest is history. This was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Q: What is something people might be surprised to know about you?
A: I was a Dance major in college. I haven’t taken dance classes in a few years, but am open to suggestions for studios in DC!
Q: What do you love most about your work?
A: I love being adjacent to people’s lives. I love seeing a life and a family grow: connecting at different moments, celebrating when they are celebrating, and providing comfort when it is needed. I also love that every day is different. One minute, I can be sitting on the floor telling a story to the 3s class and the next be meeting with an engaged couple. It is all just fun.
A: This year, I’m using Yom Kippur as a chance to explore forgiveness with myself. I often take quite seriously the practice of seeking forgiveness from – and granting it to – others, but am less generous with myself. My resolution for this year is to be patient with myself, and Yom Kippur is feeling to me like an invitation to step into that process.
A: I love the opportunity to connect with people, learn their stories, and help bring them into community and tradition.
A: I love building relationships with people to help cultivate and sustain their individual and collective Jewish identities. Every interaction, every conversation, every gathering is one that has intrinsic holiness and purpose. I love meeting people, hearing their story, connecting them to Torah and Jewish life, and working with them to create Jewish experiences.
A: I am going into 5779 with the intention to listen better. Listen to myself, listen to my partner, listen to others whose “voices” I have not yet heard. And, listen to those with whom I disagree.
Q: How do you prepare for the High Holidays?
A: I generally start by reflecting on the major themes or topics that have felt personally relevant to me over the course of the last year. Often times it has come from something I have read or been reading or even a podcast I’ve been listening to. I then think about and do some learning around how that topic is related to the High Holidays and how to incorporate those ideas into the intentions I set for myself and my community.
A: Judaism is not something we do or a box we can check to say we’ve fulfilled our duty. It is a way of life and of being in the world. Living Jewishly is about pursuing justice and making change in the world around us in order to better ourselves and our communities.
A: One thing people might be surprised to learn about me is that as a youngster, I jumped off a roof (all the neighborhood kids were doing it) and sprained my ankle. I managed to crawl all the way home and then hid it from my parents for days, claiming I’d slept on it funny, until my older sister outed me when we finally went to get it examined at the doctor’s office. Take-home lesson: you can still get injured when jumping off a low roof onto a gigantic trampoline.
Q: What led to your decision to become a Rabbi?
A: Selfishly, I went into the rabbinate because I really loved the learning and wanted more of it. I also wanted to be an inspiring, engaging teacher for others as my teachers had been for me. Check out Rabbi Strausburg’s haikus: The Daf Yomi Haiku Project, The Torah Haiku Project
Q: What do you like to Break the Fast with?
A: I like to break the Yom Kippur fast by first downing a huge glass of water. Rehydration is critically important!
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