2020 Virtual Celebration Journal Journal 2020 Final - Page 24

P R E S ENTING L I S A S AC KS AS R A B B I AN D TEACHER I N I S R AEL L I S A S AC K S hck kfc wv vsut I thank you, God, with all of my heart. ~ Psalms 9:2 Presented by Lisa Izes Y ou probably know the story: God passed by Elijah on the mountain. Though there were a great and mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire, we learn that God was not in those marvels. Rather it was a still, small voice that Elijah understood to be God. A still, small voice came to him and asked: “Why are you here, Elijah?” (1Kings 19) Lisa has asked herself the same question. With a quiet strength, God prompted Elijah to look inward, and Lisa has taken this to heart as well. She has spent her life pondering important questions. She’s contemplative but doesn’t get lost in her thoughts. Rather, she pushes forward toward action when she realizes what a situation needs. She propels herself forward into new challenges even when they are daunting. Her courage and fortitude are admirable. Lisa is an exemplar to those close to her and to those whom she serves. Lisa has followed her calling. Though it might have been a meandering path, everything that has happened in her life thus far has brought her here: to become a Rav b’Yisrael. She might call her personal quest a long one, but Lisa’s journey has become a gift to the Jewish people. Lisa lives by the Jewish values she teaches. Her Mussar practice has been a vital part of her life and work. She is grounded in text and tradition and seeks out the sacred. Lisa has a deep passion for learning. And on top of all of that, I love her dry sense of humor. It makes complete sense that Bet Torah chose her to become the Director of Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning. I’ve been a rabbi for twenty years now and from time to time Lisa has asked for my thoughts or advice. I’m honored, but I’ve found that her own analysis generally exceeds mine. I’m so proud to be one of Lisa’s friends. She is wonderful to us and of course her family—she’s thoughtful and lovely. Finally, no matter how much she needs to juggle in order to excel at school and work and everything else, Gigi and Lucy are her world. She is first and foremost a loving mom. You are a terrific team. Lisa, Mazal Tov on your accomplishments! We wish you every blessing as you go on your way. BEIT DIN Rabbi Jeff Hoffman - Somekh Rabbi Jill Hammer Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman 22 AJR 2020 I have wanted to be a rabbi since I was a kid and found joy and belonging at UAHC Camp Swig, a short drive over the mountains from my hometown of Santa Cruz, CA. For a variety of reasons, I instead pursued a career in public service, which started by studying government at Cornell and receiving my MPA from Columbia. After taking a year off to live and study in Israel, I worked first in politics, then New York City government, and finally in Jewish non-profit work, serving most recently as the Chief Financial Officer of Hazon, the Jewish environmental organization. Yet my yearning for Jewish study and spirituality was not fulfilled by what I was able to do and learn as a layperson. Though it was difficult to imagine such a life change in my 40s, I couldn’t help but search for a way to put study and spirituality at the center of my life.   Once I started looking for programs, AJR was the only one I seriously considered. What clicked for me was the pluralistic approach, the flexibility, and the rigorous yet supportive learning environment. Because AJR celebrates creativity and authenticity, values multiple perspectives, and educates its students’ minds, hearts, and souls, my time at AJR has shown me sides of myself that I had never discovered before - that I am a poet, and a songwriter, and a counselor, and a prayer leader. I have gained knowledge of content and also of self, and this has given me the confidence to not just be a business leader in the Jewish community but a spiritual leader as well.  While I couldn’t imagine anything besides returning to the non-profit world when I started AJR, my time in rabbinical school transformed my perspective as to the best role for me in Jewish life. Much of that is thanks to the love and encouragement I received from the community at Ohev Sholom Congregation in York, PA where I served as the student rabbi for 2½ years (thank you!!!). And now, I am so privileged to have found a home as the Director of Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning at Bet Torah, a warm and vibrant congregation in Mount Kisco, NY. In this role, I help others to deepen their connections to community, tradition, and their most essential selves, and am fulfilling my own dream of a life built around study and spirit. None of this would have been possible without the loving support of my parents and the enthusiastic cheerleading from my kids; I am grateful to them every day for accompanying me on this journey. My main job in life for the past 15 years has been to help my daughters become the people they are meant to be and I hope that, by pursuing that goal myself, I have inspired them to embrace the potential, the divine spark, contained within each of them. AJR 2020 23