What I Did On My Summer Sabbatical

The following is an article written for the TBS Kol Sholom.

Since coming to Temple Beth Sholom in 1998, I have been privileged to be a part of each of your lives, both collectively and individually in times of simcha and sorrow, celebrations and milestones in each of your lives. And now, in my 13th year, my Bat Mitzvah year, I am thankful to my congregational family for giving me my first Sabbatical since coming to TBS and my rabbinic career.

This sabbatical gave me the opportunity to do things that during my regular schedule I was not able to do. My summer sabbatical provided me with time to learn with colleagues, personal study and most importantly, reconnect with my family.

The first few weeks at home allowed me to participate in the daily lives of Dahvi and Yoni, something that I don’t regularly get to do. I was able to take them both to school each morning and be there for them in the afternoon. I volunteered in the end of year school activities and celebrated with Dahvi as she graduated from elementary school.

Our family spent a majority of our summer in Israel. During our time there, each of us took the opportunity to experience Israel in a very personal way. While it is always amazing to tour Israel and experience her beauty with groups of individuals visiting for the first time or the fifth, this summer we were able have to experience of living in Israel.

Both kids attended Israeli camps. Yoni attended Ramah Day Camp in Jerusalem while Dahvi spent two weeks at an overnight camp, Camp Kimama, north of Netanya, on the Mediterranean coast. Both of them made new friends from all over the world and thanks to the internet, they will be able to stay in touch with friends from Israel to France, Canada, and even Japan.

Matt took the opportunity to explore Jerusalem with friends also in the country and experience the Israel weekly life rhythm.

I spent time studying with colleagues from not only the Reform movement, but rabbis from every movement and country. From 8:30 in the morning to 10:00 at night, I studied at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Mornings began with the teacher of the day presenting us with a topic and a packet of texts. For two hours I joined in chevruta, small group study with colleagues, deciphering and challenging what the text said in light of the day’s topic. The teacher returned and unraveled the two hours we just spent wrestling with the text and wove it into a new perspective for us to consider and challenge yet again.

The afternoon was filled with more learning, dinner at home and then evening programs discussing the current state of affairs in Israel.

I came home each night from my classes excited about what I would share with the TBS community. And these High Holy Days, I look forward to sharing some of these thoughts with you and beginning the conversation that will take us into this next year.

This summer in Israel was not only in the text that I studied, but also in the text of the land and the people. We traveled throughout the entire country not only to see the places, but to connect with the people and communities. My goal was successfully achieved in creating connections in Israel that I will in turn share with the TBS and Orange County community. At every opportunity, I asked Israelis their opinions about peace, land, and the world. While I was hoping to find more defined answers that would help us understand the issues of the Middle East, I found that it is even more complicated than we can imagine, let alone solve. Yet, the discussion is extremely important and vital, even for us on the other side of the sea.

I also spent time meeting with Da’at Travel, our Israel travel coordinators, in creating a unique and exciting TBS Israel adult tour itinerary for this coming January.

These final weeks of my summer Sabbatical were spent preparing our family for reentry into our year activities: Dahvi going to a new school and preparing for her Bat Mitzvah this coming April. Yoni practicing his reading and gearing up for 2nd grade and his Tae Kwon Do Black Belt test this November. Matt getting ready to juggle the busy Cohen calendar. And me, I have already begun preparing for my High Holy Day sermons as well as looking forward to reconnecting with everyone at my TBS home.

Thank you for this summer. Thank you for these 13 years together. And thank you for the many years we have ahead of us.