2013 Rabbinic Ordainees
Following are the personal statements of the 2013 graduates of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College:
The stone that the builders rejected has become the foundation stone. — Psalm 118:22
Each time I pray hallel, this verse calls out to me, reminding me that rejected people, communities and texts hold the keys for our survival. For my work in synagogues, classrooms and Hillels, this verse reminds me to embrace those who live at the fringes of Jewish society — those less educated Jewishly, Jews-by-choice and those childless, queer or differently able. In my activism, the verse calls me towards pursuing environmental sustainability and care for society’s neglected. This text also pushes me to deeper engagement with ancient Jewish wisdom, mining our tradition for gems that inform and deepen our relationship to God, community and ourselves. The 21st century will be a transformative time for Judaism, and I am becoming a rabbi to take some responsibility for it. My prayer is that by reincorporating the “rejected stones,” we will not only survive, but thrive.
Israel de la Piedra
You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old. — Leviticus 19:32
According to Jewish tradition, in old age strength wanes but wisdom grows. I believe that when we reach old age, as long as our limitations allow us, we should challenge ourselves to grow, achieve personal renewal and deepen our search for the divine. I will work with the elderly to help them face the struggles of old age and enrich their lives spiritually and intellectually. The Talmud says, “Any student who does not rise before his teacher is called an evil person.” The elderly are my teachers, and I am their student. As a rabbi, my mission will always be to rise and honor them with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all that I have. I ask God to guide me in this endeavor, and I thank my wife, parents, children, colleagues and teachers who made it possible for me to reach this day.
...to be an Am Segulah to God… — Deuteronomy 7:6
Am Segulah is most often translated as treasured people. Yet, my life is based on understanding "segulah" as purple, and uniting three elements (segol is also a Hebrew vowel composed of three dots). I have sought to live in the spirit of Am Segulah, uniting love for Torah wisdom, love for the many forms that inhabit our Earth and an unrelenting desire to connect with the Holy Blessed One. My hope in this life is to be able to nurture in people of all ages curiosity and learning. I try to create experiences that enable adults to slow down and reconnect. When teaching the next generations, I aim to make space for their curiosity and give them the tools to explore their world through the lens of our tradition. I wear and surround myself with the color purple to always remember this sacred path that I have undertaken. I am grateful for the training I’ve received over the past six years. I give much love and honor to my parents for their many sacrifices throughout my life in order to give me the educational foundations to bring me to this moment. I am grateful to my beloved, Joel, for supporting me through the times when the path was rocky. I give thanks to the Source of Life for keeping me going and bringing me to this new beginning.
Humans! God has told you what is good — and what God wants from you: only to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. — Micah 6:8
I came to Rabbinical School three years ago, missing Jerusalem, hoping to turn my inchoate passion for Jewish texts into a professional calling. Now I disembark from this fast train, invigorated, more of a teacher and pastor than I ever thought I would be. Hebrew College has taught me the importance of finding many paths toward soulful prayer, of reading texts with integrity and of asking the hard question: How can each of us make Judaism relevant to our lives? I look forward to a rabbinate filled with learning, teaching, praying; intense conversations; laughter. And for maybe the first time, I feel like I am on the road toward doing what the Divine Source, in all of its mysteriousness, intends me to do. Many thanks and blessing go out to my classmates, friends, famil, and my dear partner in adventure for helping me to reach this day.
Lev Meirowitz Nelson
Even though there were 13 shuls in Tiberias, Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi would only daven between the pillars in their beit midrash. — Talmud Brachot 30b
My rabbinical school application essay began and ended with sailing metaphors — navigating Jewish life, charting my journey, seeking to become not just captain of my own ship but a designer of new vessels or a teacher of sailors. When I wrote my reflection paper for Judith Kates’ Devarim class this year, the dominant image was beit midrash pillars — both physical and literary, from our first Talmud semester. Contemplating this shift, I recall that Jonah fled God at sea; ships by their nature are independent, transient. Pillars, though, are grounded; they create sacred space for people to gather and be sheltered. These past five years, I have deepened, grown, built a home, become a pillar for others. I am grateful to the teachers, friends and family who have helped me in that process. As I approach this moment of transformation, I pray that I continue to find fresh metaphors that stretch me and shape my rabbinate.
Surely, this instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”...No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. — Deuteronomy 30:11-14
A teacher once blessed me by saying, “May you always teach Torah that is alive.” Today, I reaffirm my commitment to this blessing. As an educator, I try to walk the line between challenging my students and building confidence in the Jewish lives they already live. As a rabbi, I intend to do the same. There are times in our lives when we are moved to look toward the heavens. However, if we do so all the time, we miss the miracles that happen before our eyes each day, the faces of our people and the areas where we can be catalysts for change. I strive to be an exemplar of Jewish life that is passionate and enthusiastic. Perhaps more importantly, I hope to encourage my community to live a Jewish life that is rooted just as much in their hearts and souls as in our sacred rites and traditions.
Hal B. Schevitz
The world stands upon three things: Torah, service to God, and deeds of kindness. — Pirkei Avot 1:2
In my rabbinic work I hope to inspire Jews to engage in the exploration of their own Jewish identity through intellectually honest lifelong learning, varied and nuanced experiences of God and a commitment to helping others. I am passionate about discovering what is unique and special about the Jewish people and how we can use that distinctiveness to offer something new and innovative to the communities in which we live. Torah, in its most literal sense of “instruction,” is my passion as both a student and a teacher, paving the way toward the educational experiences for understanding our people’s collective myths and memories and experiencing ritual opportunities and social responsibilities that make our lives meaningful.
How manifold are Your works, Adonai. You have made all of them with wisdom — the Earth is full of Your creations. — Psalm 104:24
I have been blessed to be a part of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School. My experiences in this community, along with the wisdom of Torah, have inspired me to become a better person and prepared me to enter the rabbinate. Our diversity as Jews is a beautiful reflection of having been created in the divine image, and each one of us carries God’s infinite wonder within. As a rabbi, I will guide others to realize this divine spark by inviting them into meaningful relationship with the teachings of our tradition. I want to thank my classmates for sharing in this journey and teaching me so much along the way, my teachers for imparting their Torah with such enthusiasm and love, my family for their support and encouragement, and Leah, for being there for me each and every day of the last six years. I am truly humbled to stand here today, and hope this is only the beginning of a lifelong endeavor to bring meaning to my own life and the lives of those around me.
If you call out for understanding and give your voice to wisdom,
If you seek it as though it were silver and search for it as a hidden treasure,
Then you will experience the awe of God and will find an intuition of the divine.
It took me a number of years before I accepted that coming to rabbinical school was the right move for me. But after exploring other religious traditions and practices, I found at Hebrew College a community that I knew would nurture and challenge me in the ways that I needed to grow. One of the things I have learned here is that we always teach who we are, and I have been blessed to learn from many teachers and classmates who have shared of themselves selflessly. They have helped me to realize that being a rabbi means to explore constantly what it means to live a reflective, faithful, and spiritual life and to offer that in a loving way with other seekers and learners. I am so grateful to my classmates and family for their guidance and support, especially my parents, Barbara and Lester, and my wife, Liz.
Rabbi Daniel Klein
Director of Admissions