Just a few short weeks ago, I began my tenure as your rabbi. For Barrie, Asher, and me, the time has flown by. At the same time, you—and West Lafayette more generally—have made us feel so comfortable and so welcome that it feels as though we have been here for a lot longer. To all of you whom I have met with or spoken to, please note that your kindness and hospitality do not go unnoticed. Your cookies and challah, your hand-me-down toys for Asher, and, of course, your wisdom about the history and traditions of our synagogue are most appreciated! As your rabbi, I can only hope that I have been able to, and will continue to, reciprocate your kindness and generosity. And, though it is certainly a cliché to say so, I hope you all know that my door is always open to you, as a teacher, a friend, or even just a listener.
The care that a rabbi and congregation show to one another should be familial, and I know that I am already feeling that from so many of you. I must say, working at Temple Israel has brought a wonderful new element to my rabbinate, which is a striking difference from my previous pulpit. Here, it isn’t unusual at all for congregants to stop by, pop their head into my office door, and sit down for an impromptu chat. I attribute this change, first and foremost, to the availability of parking here (Barrie will happily, and dramatically, tell you all about parking at the synagogue in St. Thomas). But it isn’t just about logistics here. It’s about character. When I see one of you walking through the doors of our synagogue on a random weekday, I am reminded of your devotion to and passion for this place. You have so many amazing ideas about how to honor our synagogue’s history, and how to blaze our synagogue’s path into the future, that you don’t wait until Friday night or Saturday morning, and you don’t just want to write an email or make a phone call. Your ideas are so wonderful, so inspired, that you must share them as soon as possible. And, you have a sincere wish to get to know the new rabbi!
How wonderful! I am always, always thrilled to hear that there is someone to see me, so please never think that you are interrupting or disturbing me if you just decide to drop by. Indeed, know that meeting with congregants is the true rabbinic work that rabbis do; everything else is an interruption!
That all being said, the reality is that all of us (rabbi and congregant alike) get busy: we have appointments, and children, and work. Life pulls us in so many different directions that it can be hard to find time to meet the new rabbi, even when we really want to. But, as I expressed in my opening letter to you several months ago, the relationship between a rabbi and the synagogue is a lot like a marriage, and so, in many ways, these first few months can be described as a first date. I imagine that some of you might want to get to know me better, even if you don’t have time to stop by and say hello. Therefore, I want to provide you all with a different kind of opportunity to ask me questions. Maybe you want to know what kind of rabbi I am or hope to be one day. Maybe you are curious about my views on worship, Jewish education, or pastoral care. Or maybe you just want to know my favorite baseball team.
Whatever the “get-to-know-you” question, I invite you to send it to me via e-mail, with one caveat. Rather than respond to your questions individually, which would not benefit the congregation as a whole, I will use your questions, when appropriate, as a jumping-off point for my first months of weekly or monthly bulletin articles. While I may not get to all of your questions immediately, my goal will be to address as many as possible throughout our first year together. Later this year, I will also welcome questions you might have about Judaism in general, questions that arise from worship, from sermons, or classes that you would like answered. You’d better believe that if you have a question, many others share it, and I will be happy to answer it as best I can.
Thank you again for your ongoing warmth and care, and thank you for helping me get to know you all better as I strive to be the best rabbi, teacher, spiritual guide, and counselor possible for each of you.