Zeh ha-yom asah Adonai, nagilah v’nism’cha bo. . . This is the day that the Holy One has made, let us not squander its miraculousness.
When the Israelites crossed the Sea of Reeds from slavery to freedom, they were filled with wonder at the miracle before them—all of them but two named Reuven and Shimon. They two, alone, failed to look up at the walls of water towering on either side of their path. Instead, they looked only at their feet, complaining of the muck and likening it to the mud pits of Egypt. They did not look up, and so, for them, the miracle of the Exodus never happened.
Every day is an opportunity for noticing, acknowledging and feeling gratitude for the blessings and miracles all around us—from the birth of a child to the rebirth of spring; from the poignant insights that come to us in the last of our days to the delight of a new friendship.
Judaism offers us tools and opportunities to name these blessings and to reap their riches. We come to realize them through the act of gratitude and through rituals that can render even our most mundane moments as touched by holiness. A wise soul once taught: Jewish living is no guarantee of a life free of suffering, but it is a guarantee of a life full of meaning. Even in a jaded and cynical age—an age in which we bring a healthy and appropriate skepticism to daily life—Jewish life and community functions as a window into what is possible both spiritually and practically in our broken world.
The possibilities that our teachings and traditions offer for finding meaning in our time on earth and for building a foundation of meaning for those who care for our world after us—these are what drive my commitment to Judaism and my commitment to serving the Jewish people.
I was raised by Reform Jewish educators. I grew up in two very different regions: Kansas City, MO, and then Toronto, ON. Along with over a decade of Reform Jewish camping and my spiritual and teen leadership training through NFTY, my family’s synagogue involvement and Jewish affiliations gave me a tapestry from which to weave my own sense of Torah and Jewish meaning—a project I believe to be the main aim of adult Jewish life!
My path to the rabbinate had stops and starts as I worked to figure out the adult I was becoming. To my circuitous route I brought years of teaching religious school and engaging in community programs, justice work and prayer. In the year 2000 I entered rabbinical school at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where I studied for the rabbinate and also received a Master of Arts in Jewish Education. I was ordained in 2006.
Since my ordination, I have had the privilege of learning from so many colleagues and lay leaders. I served as an assistant rabbi for three years at Congregation Beth Emeth in Albany, NY. I then served as Rabbi-Educator at Congregation B’nai Israel in Sacramento, CA. I have been honored and blessed to have been welcomed into the Philadelphia area Jewish community in 2012, where I served as Director of Education at Congregation Or Ami (Lafayette Hill) until July of 2017; and where I serve as Rabbi-Educator at Old York Road Temple – Beth Am.
I am excited to collaborate with JQuest B’Yachad and QuestNoar teachers, parents, students, leaders and colleagues on the Old York corridor to envision a learning community in which every learner knows they matter and understands that Judaism and Torah are their gifts to receive, hold and transform.
Joyfully, I participate in our Jewish community with my growing family: I married Dr. David Fryer, a lifelong Philadelphian, in the spring of 2017. Between us we have four terrific children: Elie, Ruthie, Elijah and Ezra (and our dog, Levi).
I am a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Women’s Rabbinic Network and the Association for Reform Jewish Educators. I am also a member of the Philadelphia Board of Rabbis and an active participant in many programs and development opportunities offered by the Jewish Learning Venture.
I want to offer a call to all learners and all families: Our educational and leadership team see you as a partner in the work of making meaning and finding (identifying! acknowledging!) blessings for you and yours. Yours is the journey that charts our path. We aim to create a community in which we all remember to look up at the waves on either side of the Sea!
Email Rabbi Tornberg.