This summer, I am staying with the Nemitoffs while their daughter Elana is home and serving TTBJ as a rabbinic intern. She will head to Los Angeles to begin her second year of rabbinical school at HUC in the fall. Elana is whip-smart, quirky, bracingly honest and simply fantastic with kids. I've enjoyed watching her with the Machane Jehudah campers, whose attempts at mocking humor she answers with a gently mocking wit that both amuses and challenges the kids. They adore her.
At home after a long day at camp, Elana, Art and I will sometimes find ourselves talking over dinner about the various challenges of this thing we call Jewish communal work: the mistakes one can make and how we learn from them; the vagaries of congregational life; how people communicate differently depeding on age, background, family dynamic and more; how congregants engage (or don't engage) with worship and song in a service; and the realization that the learning never stops, at any age. Art, having the most experience of the three of us, has gently offered his observations and advice to me and to Elana, and in so doing has been mentoring both of us as we find our respective ways this June. I have learned over the last year that mentoring comes in many guises and forms, and that there are many mentors in the world, each with his or her own piece of wisdom to share.
This June, as a door closed on one chapter of my Jewish work history, another door is opening. I cannot share details until paperwork has been signed but this fall I will be serving two congregations: one as a musician-in-residence for the High Holidays, and another as a visiting cantorial soloist once a month during the academic year. The harder part is that neither congregation is where I live, but that is part of what I signed up for when I decided to re-boot and pursue my dreams in Jewish music and education. I am blessed with a partner who, though she is admittedly unhappy at the prospect of my being away again this fall, understands the nature of the work and is behind me fully as I move into this career path with eyes wide open. She has been a rock of calm and wisdom over the past year and I am lucky to be married to her. I cannot wait to hold her in my arms again in a week's time.
All of these are facets of Torah. And this week, all have reminded me of where I've been and are beginning to show me glimpses of where I might be headed. I pray that I will find calm, grounding and humility long the way, and I give thanks for the many ways in which Torah reveals itself to me. May I continue to be open. May what I do be of use to the community, and may I do right by the gift I've been given.
It is a tree of life to those who hold it fast, and all who cling to it find fulfillment.