From Rabbi Amitai Adler (February 2016)
It is an extraordinary privilege to be the rabbi of a congregation like B’nai Israel. There are—unfortunately—all too few communities like B’nai Israel on the Jewish communal landscape; diverse, creative, collaborative—and unabashedly quirky. There is so much richness in our community: people dedicated to learning; people dedicated to tradition; people committed to embracing and welcoming new people into the fabric of Jewish life. And we have our fair share of characters, of interesting individuals—all quality neshamot (souls) who are truly dedicated to our shul family. It’s an honor for this whole community that we hold space for so much diversity in one synagogue.
These extraordinary brachot of course pose interesting challenges that we must face together as a community: how to strengthen the interweaving of differing Jewish practices and beliefs into one whole, while ensuring that each micro-community remains true to its unique identity and traditions. How to face the inevitable need for growth and change while remaining true and committed to who we are and where we came from.
After our first year together, I feel more ready to continue this work of strengthening and integrating our community as its rabbi. I will continue to strive for balance, to accommodate and celebrate as many differences as I possibly can within the boundaries of Jewish law, and to educate and support individuals on their unique paths toward a more meaningful Jewish life.
And I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with you on this most holy and exciting endeavor—because ultimately, it’s you, not I, who are truly key to this shul surviving and thriving. I’m here to help you.
I believe that what we’re doing at B’nai Israel will increasingly become normative in Jewish communal life: a multiplicity of Jewish micro-communities nestled within one building and sharing one synagogue identity. I believe what we’re doing will soon become a model for the next stage of Jewish life in North America and beyond.
I hope to bring my knowledge of Torah and Jewish law, my passion for pluralism, and my appreciation for the strengths of the different streams of Jewish practice to our work together. I admit that it won’t always be easy: what we’re doing is, in many ways, revolutionary. But it’s also so important, and so sacred. I bring to this work my own un/Orthodox upbringing—as many of you know, my dad is a Modern Orthodox rabbi and my mom is a Jewish feminist theologian and Reform rabbi. I’m a Conservative rabbi and my wife is a Reform rabbi. My whole life is about negotiating, appreciating difference, and working to build something together that is stronger than any one of us could build alone.
In the meantime, I’m grateful for Temple B’nai Israel—that we are what we are, and that I get to be part of it. I feel lucky to be able to work with our excellent Presidents Judy Jacobson and Esther Pollock and the amazing people on our Board, with the dedicated gentlemen who organize and run our Shabbat morning services, with the terrific gentlemen and ladies who organize Friday night services, with the parents who help bring about our terrific Family Shabbat events, with the whirlwind of creative energy that is Marilyn Katz and the committed teachers of our fantastic religious school. And I feel lucky that I have the chance to daven with, learn Torah with, share joys and sorrows with each of you, our members and attendees and parts of the B’nai Israel family.
Rabbi Amitai Adler