My name is Patrick Aleph, and I would like to be your rabbi. I’m graduating from an independent, progressive rabbinical program in a few years, so consider this my job interview. Kveller parents seem to want the kind of rabbi in their lives that I would like to be. So here it goes.
Fellow Atlantan Logan Ritchie in her article on Atlanta Jewish Kids Groups asked, “What happened to the Reform synagogues of yesteryear? I want my rabbi bearded, wearing a tie-dye tallit, and playing guitar.” Mrs. Ritchie, I have an on-again-off-again beard, wear a Super Jew shirt to shul, and have yet to retire from playing rock music in touring bands. We might get along really well.
If I had been performing Sarah Tuttle-Singer’s baby naming, her “vibrating” experience with her rabbi and the sex toy drawer would not have been so embarrassing. Instead of pretending that her pocket rocket wasn’t going off, I would have warmly said, “Hey, don’t let those expensive batteries drain!” I would also joke that if King David can have four hundred wives and concubines, your rotating iRabbit with Kung Fu grip and multiple attachments is a mitzvah that you and the husband should enjoy as often as possible.
Tamara Reese is the kind of person I would love to support in Jewish life. I’m a convert too, and as a guy, I can tell you in a half joking way that your husband, while a nice man, is a dude and should not be responsible for your Judaism…or anything, for that matter. I would remind you that I don’t believe Judaism has a dress code and even if you missed my seder, I would text you and say, “Don’t worry about missing the seder. That’s not important. The important part is the chocolate cake and drinking until 2 a.m. Would love to see you later when the party gets started.”
These are just three examples of the kind of rabbi I would like to be. But I am worried that although I could be “that guy,” I’m still not what you want.
As Ben Stiller joked in the movie Keeping The Faith, “Jews want their rabbis to be the kind of Jews they don’t have time to be.” I have found that many people don’t want their rabbis to be like them. They want their rabbis to be them, if they were better people. Even if your synagogue is Classical Reform, you still want your rabbi to keep kosher. While you want a synagogue that has Shabbat yoga and social justice programs, you still want your rabbi to be mashing his/her face into studying the Talmud. A rabbi who gets on the bimah and says, “Heck with the d’var Torah, let’s all go hiking” is probably a fun novelty. But try that in your average mainline synagogue, and you’ll be on the fast track to unemployment.
Or maybe you don’t want a rabbi at all, but say you do because that’s what you are supposed to say as a good Jew? A 2009 report by Synagogue 3000 shows that most Jews don’t belong to a synagogue and don’t want a rabbi to talk to about deep issues. Jews have two synagogues: the one they don’t go to, and the one they would never step foot in. I feel like that is true, in a way, for rabbis as well.
So again. Hi, my name is Patrick, and I am on my way to being the music loving, sex positive, ritually low key, crazy-in-love-with-God independent rabbi you say you want. So now that I’m here, do you really want me, or were you just saying that because it’s an excuse to stay out of organized religion?