Cantor Murray Simon and I in front of the ark at Bat Yam Temple of the Islands
I never thought it would happen.
When I retired from Congregation Beth Israel in 2011, I thought my installations and new professional beginnings were in the past.
I retired then because I felt that at age 65 I had done all that I could as a Congregational Rabbi. I realized that my points of reference are very different than those of the people congregations must attract now and in the future. I simply do not listen to the same music, watch the same TV shows or see the same movies and plays that are popular with young people today.
I thought I would read more, write more, enjoy my family more and travel (which, thankfully, I have).
When I retired I did not anticipate becoming President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
The opportunity to represent Reform Jewish values and practice in 65 communities on five continents, which that position gave me, was priceless. Even though I did not come close to meeting the expectation the lay leaders of the organization had in terms of fund raising, I would not trade the experiences I had during those 18 months for anything.
The WUPJ contacts I made led to the offer to serve as guest Rabbi in Milan in 2013 and then to spend ten weeks in each of the past three years teaching and speaking in German schools (with Vickie), synagogues, at the Abraham Geiger College in Berlin and in some two-dozen churches.
I will not hide it.
When the WUPJ asked me to step down just weeks before my second open-heart surgery. I was devastated. Looking back over my subsequent opportunities in Milan and in Germany, I can say it was a blessing in disguise.
And then along came Sanibel! (I have told the story of how I got here in my blog essay, “Sanibel Sunrise.”)
For sure I never expected to serve as Rabbi of a congregation again, but this opportunity seems tailor-made for me.
It is a congregation largely of retirees interested in deepening their Jewish knowledge, enjoying worship and still making a difference in the world around us. There is a minimum of administrative duties, which I was never good at anyway, and there is no youth education program to oversee. It is a position that leaves some time for writing and other interests.
The community has embraced Vickie warmly, and there is so much she enjoys doing on Sanibel. Yes, this opportunity seems just right for both of us at this stage in our lives.
The privilege of working with a Cantor like Murray Simon is an added bonus. I have learned much from him already, and I treasure the friendship developing among Toby, Vickie, Murray and me.
Our joint installation will be even more special because of the presence of our mutual friend, Rabbi Paul Citrin.
I met Rabbi Citrin as a first year rabbinical student in Los Angeles in 1968. He was the most advanced Hebrew student in our class, and I was the least. He took me under his wing then and has had my back ever since.
He and Cantor Simon met and became best friends right after Paul’s ordination when he came to serve Temple Israel in Boston, where Murray was the Cantor.
Twenty years ago, I thought my installation ceremony in West Hartford would be the last one of my career. Now I look forward to one more. With Rabbi Citrin officiating I know it will be special for Cantor Simon and me. If you can join us, we would love to have you!
The installation will take place at 7:30 PM, January 5 (where Bat Yam Temple of the Islands meets) at Sanibel Congregational UCC, 2050 Periwinkle Way.