Rabbi’s installation sermon

For anyone who would who would like to read my Installation Speech from tonight

I would like to thank everyone who made today possible. I am so grateful for each individual who served on the Rabbinic Search Committee and everyone who gave so generously of their time and money in order for me to come for an interview in March and to move here in June to accept the position of Rabbi and Education Director of Or Ami. I would like to thank all of the people who worked so hard in order to make this evening a wonderful occasion. Thank you Amy and Alan Arkava for putting the Installation Service together. Thank you David Goldsmith for leading the service. Thank you Rachel, Erin, Jonathon, and Klezm Or’ami’m for providing such wonderful music. Thank you, Dr. Josh Moss, for driving up from North Carolina to be the one to install me today. Thank you to Ralph and Miriam for driving down from Northern Virginia. Your presence tonight is so meaningful to me. Thank you to the Personnel committee, Facilities committee, and Yad B’Yad for helping to set up and make Or Ami so beautiful for tonight.

I feel so lucky to have found Or Ami. To borrow a line from the Hassidic story told earlier in tonight’s service, I have “come to the right spot.” Or Ami embodies what it is to be a sacred community. Members of Or Ami are the most genuine and supportive people I have ever met. In the five months that I have been here, I have seen Or Ami folks come time and time again to support one another for occasions big and small. If anyone is sick, someone from Or Ami is there with a bowl of chicken soup. If anyone needs help moving tables, Or Ami is there with sleeves rolled up. If anyone needs emotional support during a challenging time, walking into Or Ami is like walking into a warm embrace.

This congregation is where lives are shared. In our discussions at services, Torah study, and various programs, people share their deepest thoughts, hopes, and fears. This is a genuine community.

Or Ami is also an incredibly open community. Where else can you try a different style service every week? Or Ami is not stuck in old ways. This vibrant community is open to new ideas, new music, and new spiritual exploration that keeps our worship exciting and thought-provoking.

This openness permeates the community, from our pre-school Torah Tots program to our adult education classes. People are excited to be here. Yes even kids look forward to being at Or Ami’s Religious School early on Sunday mornings. Or Amians do not take this community for granted. We cherish the opportunity to spend time with other Jews and interfaith families and to connect on a meaningful level. Suffice it to say that we are doing something right at Congregation Or Ami.

My vision for Or Ami is to continue to do everything that we have been doing right and to build upon this great foundation towards an even brighter future.

As the Director of Education, I intend to take the Religious School to the next level by using what’s already great about the Religious School and supplementing that with thoughtful consideration of the children’s spiritual needs. I want our students to know their tradition and heritage inside and out, so that they can engage with the world as proud and knowledgeable Jews. I want to increase the opportunities for adult education as well, beginning with an Intro to Judaism course and Hebrew classes geared towards beginning and more advanced level students. I believe that as adults, we must role-model lifelong commitment to learning and spiritual growth for the next generation. I also believe that our classes for adults must be equally fun and thought-provoking as our classes for kids.

As Rabbi of Or Ami, I intend to bring new music and ideas to services, while maintaining a sense of stability and comfort in our worship. I will continue to work with the Avodah Committee to make sure that people who come to services leave feeling uplifted, more connected, and wiser than when they walked in.

I also intend to work with the board to strengthen communication and the sense of community between committees and other congregants. Reform Judaism is about choice through knowledge; and as a Reform congregation, we must offer everyone the chance to learn about what is going on and the choice of how best to engage with our community and tradition.

Finally, I will do my part to create a welcoming space for Jewish families, interfaith families, and spiritual seekers of all backgrounds. I believe this sacred duty of welcoming begins with our online presence, which is often people’s first exposure to us, and it must permeate every interaction people have at Or Ami. Over time, this will enable us expand our membership and create a fantastic future for our sacred community. While I have specific ideas on how to accomplish these goals, I believe that it is absolutely vital for all of these goals to be accomplished through our sacred partnership. I look forward to conversations with every Or Amian who has an idea about how to make Or Ami the very best that it can be. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with and for such a phenomenal congregation. Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.