On Friday night I will lead my first service on the KI bimah with Cantor Levy. The road to this point has been long and not just with regard to the thorough search process that brought me here; the road to my arrival at KI can be traced back generations. Indeed, like each of us, I am here because of the noble and courageous relatives that preceded me.
My grandparents, four Holocaust survivors, came to this country with desperately little. What they lacked in possessions they made up for in hope and positivity. They arrived knowing almost no English and nothing of this curious new country. Slowly they found their way. My father’s parents settled in Cincinnati, as so many German Jews did in the 1940s. My mother’s parents began life anew in New York City. My parents, first generation Americans, would meet through NFTY and marry in December of 1969 at Temple HaBonim on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They were both students at the time and returned from their honeymoon in Boston just in time for the start of the next semester.
I am the person that I am, and the rabbi that I am, because of my parents and grandparents. From them, I learned the value of family, of history, of heritage, and of Torah. I knew as a teenager that I would be a rabbi someday. Now eighteen years into my rabbinate, having grown as a teacher, a speaker, and a leader, I am so ready to be here with you. My family and I cannot wait to connect with the community and learn your story.
I recognize that new beginnings are hard. Anyone who has ever started a new job, a new relationship, or a new chapter of life, understands that new beginnings can be challenging. We feel off-balance, uncertain, even anxious. I want you to know that – with you – I intend to treat this important transition in the life of KI with delicacy, intention, and thoughtfulness. Together we will journey from unfamiliar to familiar. Together we will embrace a future that brims with possibility.
While our world feels so totally fractured right now, broken along every imaginable line, the synagogue is as important as ever. It is a place for our kids to be safe, together, and comfortable in their sense of self. It is a place for all of us to remember the enduring values of our people and experience a level of faith in our heart. Here we can find shelter in the powerful words of our tradition and the ideas that have granted the people of Israel perspective for centuries.
I pray that we go from strength to strength together.