In 2002, 13 years ago, I left my first congregational position at Bet Am Shalom Synagogue in White Plains, NY to come to Ramat Shalom. The last event I attended at Bet Am Shalom was the “Bar Mitzvah” celebration of the congregation’s senior rabbi, my mentor, Lester Bronstein. As he prepared to celebrate his 13th year, I vividly remember Rabbi Bronstein’s words of wisdom to me:
Don’t be one of those Rabbis who stays at a congregation for two or three years and moves on to another congregation for two or three years. Be in it for the long haul. Give yourself time to develop long, meaningful relationships with the members of your community. When you do, you will truly understand the blessing of being a Rabbi.
As I prepare to celebrate my 13th year, I have been thinking a lot about these words of wisdom. In an email last month, I reminded Rabbi Bronstein of his words and thanked him for urging me to “be in it for the long haul.” His simple response to my email was so telling: “It’s great isn’t it?”
Rabbi Bronstein is still at Bet Am Shalom. He is now marking his 26th year at the congregation and he continues to find it to be a great experience. I am not surprised. My 13 years at Ramat Shalom have allowed me to discover that becoming integrally connected to a community is the blessing of being a rabbi. Rabbi Bronstein knew this as he shared his words of wisdom with me 13 years ago. But, he knew that the only way I could discover this blessing was to connect deeply with a congregation. So, he quietly implored me to “be in it for the long haul.” As I wonder what it must be like to be the rabbi at a congregation for 26 years, I think Rabbi Bronstein provides the answer in his response to me last month: “It’s great isn’t it?”
Rabbi Bronstein is one of the many influential people who have made it possible for me to celebrate my “Bar Mitzvah” year at Ramat Shalom. As we lead up to the wonderful celebration that Ramat Shalom is throwing on March 29th (click here for more information), I will be using these weekly messages to share with you a few more stories about some of the influential people and inspiring moments that have defined the past 13 years. Know that in your own special way, each of you got me to this moment and I hope we can celebrate together on March 29th. Please note, we changed the date of the celebration and can now include teens and children. This is something that is really important to me as who I am as a Rabbi is so defined by our younger members!