2020 Virtual Celebration Journal Journal 2020 Final - Page 20

P R E S ENTING ROB E RT GREEN AS R A B B I AN D TEACHER I N I S R AEL RO B E RT G R E E N ub,unsf ubnkmc ost vagb ohvk-t rnthu Presented by Cantor Erica J. Lippitz And God said, “Let us make them in our image, in our likeness.” A ~ Genesis 1:26 new educator had just arrived at our synagogue, and, given a medical procedure, I had not yet met him. But then a note appeared in my home mailbox, wishing me refuah shleimah and expressing in warm terms how much he looked forward to working together. It was Robert. That first impression of open-hearted compassion would be reinforced many times in the years to come. No sooner did Robert join our professional staff than the entire atmosphere was uplifted. There was humor, thoughtfulness, and optimism that old challenges could be met in new ways. Robert demonstrated a sense of personal connection and concern for each child and each family. Families soon began to show up more regularly at shul, to seek guidance in ways not necessarily linked to their child’s religious school education. This man who cared for their child wanted to know them. Robert had a wisdom born of a wide variety of life experiences, and he was not intimidated by the complexities of family life. He could help solve challenges whose solutions had eluded other trained eyes. He was unafraid to meet people at the deepest moments of their lives – especially those difficult moments that come uninvited. Even in the midst of those challenges, Robert could help someone laugh. A new challenge emerged many years later, when my then-husband decided to depart from the pulpit rabbinate. Who would have the sensitivity and patience to help the congregation transition? The answer seemed obvious to both of us: Robert Green. And after the leadership of Congregation B’nai Israel interviewed him, they looked no further. Robert, you are, at your core, a master counselor and educator. That is the strength of your rabbinate. In moments of challenge, you are able to harness Jewish wisdom, guidance and comfort – you intuitively know how to be a focused and healing presence. The rich learning you have absorbed at AJR shows. Yet, your modesty as a rabbi means that you always convey that it is the Jewish community that stands with them, ready to heal and help. You enable each person to grow, even in times of trouble. And so the community itself grows, under your care. Umaa’sey yadeinu kon’na aleynu – may the Holy One bless the work of your hands. I welcome you, my dear colleague, to the mystery and privilege of our sacred calling. BEIT DIN Rabbi Jeff Hoffman - Somekh Rabbi Jill Hammer Rabbi Peg Kershenbaum 18 AJR 2020 F rom my earliest days, I loved spending time at the synagogue, especially for Shabbat services. Perhaps it had something to do with the old fashioned onegs. What can I say, I was a child with a sweet tooth. But I also loved the warm atmosphere of the synagogue, filled with beautiful songs and the comfort of friends and family. Religious school was a little different. At the age of 11 I was suspended for challenging my teacher to prove the existence of God. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me. After that, I began spending time with our rabbi, a recent graduate of HUC, who enjoyed my questions and was happy to engage in long conversations. He was energetic, interesting, and inviting. From that point on, he was my image of what a rabbi could be and ought to be. As I got older, I held onto my appreciation of this image of an approachable rabbi. Though I was not religious in a formal way, Judaism was always close to my heart and I took great pride in my Jewish identity. As a college student on a campus with few Jews, I found my fellow yids and we celebrated Shabbat with Magen David wine, saltine crackers and songs. I also connected with the few Jewish professors and began teaching at the local temple. When my wife, Ruth, and I first became parents, a local rabbi opted not to perform a bris for our son because I was committed to honoring the roots of our interfaith extended family. I was hurt and thought that I could either leave my Judaism behind or work to make a difference. I became involved in our synagogue, including in a two year program focusing on young leadership. The program culminated in a trip to the former Soviet Union and Israel. Before I left Israel, I knew that I wanted to return and I knew that I wanted a life of Jewish service By then Ruth and I had three young children and full lives and careers. Nevertheless, we packed up our family and moved to Jerusalem for a year of working and learning. It was a wonderful experience and when we returned to The States, I was even more certain of my desire to study for the rabbinate. Two things were instrumental in my achieving my goal: My loving and supportive family and my visit to AJR. Within ten minutes of being at the school, I knew that I had found my home and I have never doubted that decision. In 2013, I began a student pulpit in a small town in PA. Although the once thriving community had dwindled to a few dozen people, the commitment to learning, living Jewish lives, and Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, was as strong as ever. My experience was rich and fulfilling. In 2018, I moved to a larger congregation in New Jersey. I feel blessed to be working in a community of people who welcome all families seeking a richer Jewish life with open hearts and minds. And now I look forward as my journey continues. AJR 2020 19