What makes you so passionate about Judaism?
I grew up in a secular Jewish home with strong values of civic and social responsibility. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and actively seeking spiritual expression that I began to discover the deep beauty and meaning of Jewish life. I found my Jewish soul while studying in Israel.
For me, Judaism brings out the vibrancy and color of life. I used to think that spiritual life was a luxury, but I have grown to appreciate and depend on the sacred as an integral part of existence and my place in the world. A rich Jewish life is full of light and joy, connection and meaning, vulnerability and power.
My Judaism compels me on a daily basis to lead my most authentic life. It connects me to something bigger than myself through the sacred stories of our spiritual ancestors. It challenges me to heal a broken world with God as my partner.
I share my life’s journey with my wife, Marita, and our three children, who are our biggest inspirations for everything that we do.
What drew you to the rabbinate?
I have always had a relationship with God, even when I was a kid without the language to express it. I remember the summer that I was learning how to read, my father and I would read the Big Book of Children’s Bible Stories. This was a bit odd since we were not a ‘religious’ family, but something about this book drew me in. There was one story, about a boy named Samuel (Kings 2), who was called by God three times before he realized it was God doing the calling. I would lay in bed at night, waiting, listening, asking, “God, are you there?” Although I never heard the answer, the echoes of my seeking continued to call to me from the depths of my being.
My route to the rabbinate was circuitous, with stretches of time spent in quest, while other periods were marked by stillness. My journey took me to an Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem, travels around the globe, and to the early internet days of Silicon Valley. All the while, like a magnet pulled by a lodestone, there was a calling toward something I was truly meant to do. I wanted to be an active part of the Jewish story. I wanted to devote my life’s work to the Jewish people, and I wanted to lead us from a common history, toward a shared destiny.
Since entering Seminary, I’ve served congregations ranging from 25 families to 2,500 families. My rabbinate is defined by my dedication to pastoral care, personal relationship, and helping people discover their own Jewish soul.
What is the spiritual background of your early years?
I grew up in the suburbs of Boston in the same town that my family had lived for three generations. My grandparents lived a mile down the road, and I knew where the key was ‘hidden’ under the mat. My days were spent playing outside with the neighborhood kids. Life in these suburbs of Atlanta very much reminds me of my own upbringing. In retrospect, what was missing from my childhood was a Temple Emanu-El, a strong, spiritual center with a meaningful Jewish life.
My parents sent me to a Quaker boarding school for the excellence in education and dedication to social justice. The unexpected and surprising outcome of my time with the Quakers is that I learned how to listen, and appreciate the small, silent voice within.
A pivotal spiritual moment was my first trip to Israel at age 13 when I tagged along with a friend and his family. For the first time, I encountered the colorful diversity of the Jewish people who walked with confidence. And for the first time, I understood what it meant to belong to the Jewish people, and be responsible for our greater community. To this day, I love Israel, with all of its complexities and possibilities.
As a young man, I spent years as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, building companies from the ground up. The skills I gained in the startup world, I use every day in my rabbinate.
What is your academic background?
I was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York City in 2008. My thesis topic was: “The de-evolution of the Jewish Warrior: From Judah Maccabee to Woody Allen.” In addition to my various rabbinic internships during seminary, I worked as a Chaplain at Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital. I received my Bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University in History and Education.
I spend an inordinate amount of time reading sci-fi/fantasy books. I love being outdoors, I am an avid swimmer, and I can occasionally be found dominating the pickle-ball court at the MJCCA.