He Cared

What is the legacy you want to leave behind?

In two words, that is my answer, “He cared.”

In thousands of interactions as a rabbi, over the last 50 years, I cannot say I have always been right. I know that I have not. But I am proud to say, “I never phoned it in.” I cared deeply about the people with whom I dealt, the subjects I have tackled, the projects I have undertaken, and the speeches and sermons I have delivered.

I hope too I will be remembered for my role bringing the first female Cantor and first female rabbi to Columbia, Maryland, the first female rabbi to Nashville, Tennessee, and the first female Cantor to West Hartford, Connecticut. And most of all … I hope people will remember my role in bringing the first lesbian rabbi to West Hartford and that there were those back in 1999 who wanted my head on a platter for doing so.

The general acceptance of LGBTQ individuals as clergy in non-Orthodox Jewish life today is, thankfully, a given. It was unheard of when I was ordained in 1974, and it was uneasy in my congregation in 1999. We have come a long way.

A year ago, our movement celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ordination of Sally Priesand as our first woman rabbi. Now women outnumber men among those entering the rabbinate. The infusion of women rabbis has brought about a mind-boggling sea change in our movement’s sensitivity and inclusivity.

I would like people to remember my small role in furthering that process. I would like people to know that I did those things to fulfill God’s covenantal charge to Abraham to do, צדקה ומשפט׳ “what is right and just.” (Genesis 18:19)

No, if I am honest, I cannot say I was always “right.” But I can honestly say I always cared.

Oh, I hate Cold Weather

How do you feel about cold weather?

After four years at Hamilton College in upstate NY, I hate the cold. Ever since the time in February when our hockey team, for which I logged more bench time than ice time, played MIT in Boston, outdoors and at night, I have been cold.

Six years ago we moved to Sanibel, Florida when I became Rabbi of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands. This past fall Hurricane Ian devastated our home, our synagogue and the whole island. Recovery is slow. But we are coming back!

Now that I have retired from my position, we shall still live in Sanibel. We love the people, we love the weather, we love our home, and we love the fact that wearing just shorts and a tee shirt, we can comfortably p,any tennis outdoors in February.

As I have often written, “We have all been expelled from the Garden of Eden.” I.e, nobody has it perfect. That said I will trade the downside of living on Sanibel for not being cold any day of the week. I hate to be cold.