Me, Cheryl, and Abby on the cover of Shalom Today soon after arriving in South Florida

21 years ago, on July 15th, 2002, I began my journey as the Rabbi at Ramat Shalom. Cheryl and I had been married for just three years. Taking a pulpit in South Florida was a risky move for us. We were and, in many ways, still are northerners – born and raised. I was happy as the Assistant Rabbi at Bet Am Shalom, a Reconstructionist synagogue in White Plains New York, a congregation at which I had interned at during rabbinical school. Cheryl had an exciting job in the same area, working as a rabbi in the political and social action worlds. We had just become new parents to Abigail and loved the fact that we were surrounded by family who served as our support system.  In so many ways, life was good for us in suburban New York City.  
But 9/11 rocked us to our core. We had a beautiful little cottage perched high above the Hudson River. On the morning of the attack, we were confused as we watched a jet fly at eye level right by our home. Moments later there was a huge explosion that shook our house and set off our car alarms. Within moments we smelled burning. It was, of course, the burning of the World Trade Center, just down the river. For more than 24 hours Cheryl and I sat clutching Abigail, watching the tv and the police boats on the Hudson. In shock, we questioned if we needed to get in the car and drive away, somewhere safe. But where?  
One of our family friends was killed in the towers, others escaped with their lives. My father was one of the last customers at Windows on World restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center on the evening of September 10th. The Vice-President of my synagogue was one of the few who made it out of the North Tower alive. I visited him in the hospital and met other victims and their families. I will never forget that experience. I’ll also never forget the acrid smell in the city nor the ash-covered, stunned, and exhausted emergency workers walking the streets of the city. As the emergency workers passed us, we all stopped whatever we were doing to stand up and applaud.  
It took time for Cheryl and me to realize the impact that 9/11 had on our lives and the safe bubble of family, friends, community, and Jewish life. I now realize that it was the impetus that led me to follow up on a call I received from the Reconstructionist Movement, asking me if I’d consider becoming the Rabbi at Ramat Shalom. Far away South Florida sounded like a much-needed change of scenery for us to raise our baby girl. So, Cheryl, Abigail, and I came to visit the folks at Ramat Shalom. 
My synagogue in New York was a very traditional Reconstructionist community. Services there were no different than services at the neighboring Conservative shul. I developed quite the davenning skills and truly loved leading services and teaching at Bet Am Shalom. And I was so blessed to have in the congregation’s Rabbi and Cantor, Les Bronstein and Benjie Schiller, true mentors. Ramat Shalom was very different, embracing tradition, but also encouraging innovation in ways that were new to me. This intrigued and excited me. I would have to push myself out of my comfort zone, learn new skills, and take on the responsibilities of being the rabbi, not the assistant rabbi. All of this, coupled with the shattered, safe bubble that was our life in New York, drove us to accept the offer when Ramat Shalom asked me to become their Rabbi.  
The past 21 years have not all been easy, but Cheryl and I, along with Abigail and Jonah, who was born down here, have fallen in love with our RSBI community. I have grown tremendously as a rabbi thanks to the support of all of you. It is really shocking to me that it has been 21 years. Rabbi Bronstein always urged me to find a position and stay put. This, he said, is how you discover the joy of pulpit life. He was so right. I have officiated at marriages of synagogue kids who grew up before my eyes and am now welcoming their children into our schools. I have been blessed to have become deeply connected with so many of you and your families. Ramat Shalom Beth Israel is our family, and we consider ourselves so blessed. 
I find it truly fitting that as I mark my 21st year here, I get to return to my roots. Some of you original Ramat Shalomniks will remember that when I arrived, I tried hard to create a Shabbat morning service. It never really worked. Ramat Shalomniks tend to be a Friday night crew and I accepted this and fell in love with our moving Kabbalat Shabbat services. Just recently, the TBI community has given us the gift of Shabbat morning! And tomorrow, Cheryl and I will lead a service very similar to the one I used to lead up in New York. It took 21 years, but it was so worth the wait. Please consider joining us tomorrow at 10:00am. 
21 years as a rabbi of a congregation does not just happen because the rabbi puts in the work. Anyone involved in synagogue leadership knows that it is a team effort. I would not be here today, serving as the spiritual leader of RSBI, without the many board members and other leaders who have served our community and been mentors and guides to me. 21 years is a testament to us – our ability to forge powerful relationships and our commitment to create a secure synagogue community that provides all who connect with us deep, meaningful connections. 
To my friends who have been on this journey with me for more than two decades, we have a lot more work to do! And to my new friends whose journeys have brought us together, I am honored to travel alongside you. 
By the way, tonight at Kabbalat Shabbat, Cantor Jodi and I will be talking more about journeys, ours and yours, and how the Torah teaches us that finding purpose in life requires us to take many journeys. Join us at 7:30pm. 

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