What makes you so passionate about Judaism?
My passion for Judaism began at home. My parents were the first ones to foster a passion for Judaism in my life. Our home reflected the seasons and celebrations of the Jewish calendar. I felt as though Judaism was something to be enjoyed and explored. We kept kosher-style at home, we marked the end of each week with Shabbat candles, kiddush, and challah, and each holiday had its own unique home ritual. As I grew older I learned that there was a Judaism beyond what I was getting at home, so my exploration continued into the classroom, the synagogue, and most importantly for me—Israel.
I feel a unique privilege in having attended Jewish day school from 5th through 12th grade. While a student at The Davis Academy and The Weber School, I had the special opportunity to live out my Jewish identity in the classroom, in extracurriculars, and with Jewish friends who held similar values. I was presented a Judaism that invited investigation, discussion, and celebration. My passion for Judaism flourished at school because I was given space to wonder and grapple with the implications of my learning in a supportive environment.
The strongest part of my passion for Judaism came only after I had the perspective of Jewish life in Israel. From my first trip, as a participant on NFTY’s 2005 L’dor V’dor Summer experience, I became a committed Zionist who sought to express my Judaism through a love of Israel and living according to “Jewish time.” I became enamored by the Zionist dream to live out Jewish values in our land. Today, I still love how each week is shaped by Shabbat, by the holidays, and how the Hebrew language is used to describe the holy and the profane.
What drew you to the rabbinate?
My journey to the rabbinate was the result of several influential Jewish leaders and my own passion to be a learner and a teacher of Torah. I have been the beneficiary of teachers who have encouraged me to ask tough questions of our practices and texts. The connection with others that comes with learning is one of the greatest drives I have in my rabbinate. I love the tough questions that lead to a greater understanding of ourselves and our relationship with Jewish tradition and God.
For me, it is also important to add, “who drew you to the rabbinate?” I decided to become a rabbi because I had positive Jewish role models in my life who instilled in me a passion for Jewish learning and living. In Atlanta, I was heavily influenced by Rabbi Julie Schwartz and the headmaster of The Weber School, Sim Pearl. Both of these teachers were models of compassionate Jewish leadership.
Ultimately, my decision to become a rabbi came as a result of meeting rabbinical students in Israel who had similar life experiences. I learned about their professional and personal passions, and I soon realized that we shared the same dreams and goals in life. Those relationships with my peers have been some of the most influential in drawing me toward the rabbinate. As I reflect back on my journey, I see a chain of mentors and educators who have walked this path alongside me.
What is the spiritual background of your early years?
In my early years my spiritual background was full of music and community. More than a text or a place, the most important spiritual factor in my youth was the joy and comfort that came through melodies and those who sang them. Whether I was at Camp Barney Medintz, AEPi, or at Shabbat services, I always felt most spiritual when I was absorbed in singing a melody with others.
The power of music in community is what draws me to explore what meaningful prayer looks and sounds like today. The second half of that equation—community—is the other major part of my spiritual background. When I think back on the major moments of my life, I am always drawn to think about the people who made me feel connected to something greater than myself. Those connections and relationships, which provide a reason for being, are what gives a community its strength.
What is your academic background?
I am the proud product of The Davis Academy (2003) and The Weber School (2007). In 2011 I graduated from University of Maryland, College Park (Go Terps!) with a Bachelors in Arts and Humanities. At Maryland I majored in Jewish Studies, and I focused on Israeli history, modern Hebrew, and the modern Jewish experience. During my time at Maryland, I also became a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi. More recently, I graduated with a Masters in Hebrew Letters (2016) from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. My rabbinic thesis entitled, “The Intersection of Judaism and Distributive Justice through the Lens of Shemita,” was a search into the ways Judaism reflects modern notions of how a society ethically distributes its resources to those in need. I also have a Masters Concentration in Israel Education (2017) from The iCenter: For Israel Education in Chicago, Illinois. I have served as the student rabbi to congregations in Kokomo, Indiana, Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, Sylvania, Ohio, and Isaac M. Wise Temple in Cincinnati, OH. I received rabbinical ordination by HUC-JIR in May of 2017.
I love to read, my tastes range from the Harry Potter series to books about Jewish history or law. I obsessively listen to anything produced by National Public Radio, and I am an avid rock climber, runner, and basketball player.