Like many great ideas, this began as a crazy idea. I was on a Jewish unity mission, a trip that took our group to houses of worship and places of learning all across the Jewish continuum. So it was that in a small, soulful weekday shacharit, in an Orthodox minyan conducted almost entirely in Hebrew, I was overcome with emotion at the beauty and depth of the worship and heard myself say, “I want to go to Rabbinical School.”
I tucked that away for years, because it made no practical sense. I didn’t speak Hebrew, I didn’t know very much about Jewish tradition, I was (ahem) older than the usual graduate student and not religious, whatever that means. Yet the thought kept poking at me. By that time, I was writing about Jewish text, deeply engaged in the lives of multiple communities, leading worship. And the more holy encounters I had, the more I began to feel like a Rabbi, or at least, like a potential Rabbi.
Perhaps there was something there.
When it became apparent last year that an employment change was necessary and imminent, I decided to use my newfound free time to take the dream seriously. I audited two classes at Hebrew College in the fall and began studying Hebrew with a vengeance. I loved it, all of it, even the confusion and feelings of inadequacy! I was standing at the bottom of an enormous mountain and it was thrilling. It felt like my mountain.
So I applied to Rabbinical School.
And I got in.
And I got a merit fellowship, which — while it doesn’t cover all my tuition — brings my dream into the realm of the possible.
Last week, with my heart in my throat, I signed on the dotted line and accepted my place in the incoming Rabbinical Ordination class at Hebrew College.
Since I “went public” about this dream, I have been boosted up more times than I can count by the encouragement of family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. I expect I’ll need more of the same in the coming years as I learn Torah and Talmud and ritual and Hebrew and Aramaic and other things I don’t even know to name yet. It will take time, hard work, and the support of my community.
It will also take money. Even with a fellowship, I will have a $15,000 gap per year in the first three years, to cover the remainder of the tuition, language tutoring, books, and the like. I am in the process of looking for part-time work and a High Holiday soloist job.
I have always felt that a community can accomplish so much more together than any individual can alone. If your resources allow and if your heart moves you in this direction, I am earnestly asking for your support. You can make a contribution directly to my PayPal (consider $180 or whatever you can afford). And if you’d like to follow along on the journey, click here to sign up for my monthly emails (a little update, a little Torah, a little humor).
I am excited to think of the work that I can do as a Rabbi. Whether I lead an established community, start one of my own, or expand upon the engagement work that has filled my last several years with joy and meaning, I am confident I can make a positive difference for the Jewish community and I look forward to serving. My family and I are grateful for any support you can offer, including having read this message. (Feel free to share it with others who might be interested.) Shalom and todah rabbah!
2 thoughts on “Origin Story”
Congratulations, Naomi! You so belong in the Rabbinate – thrilled for your news! Annie