Rabbi Jen has so much to share with us, that it’s hard to know where to begin. So we started by asking her a few fundamental questions. What follows is an interview from May 2012. For more of Rabbi Jen’s inspiring words and sermons, click here.
Interviewer: Rabbi Jen, describe a magic moment for you.
Rabbi Jen: Oh my gosh! They happen weekly. In fact, I have an “aha” journal that I write in to remind myself of exactly these things.
I: Wow! Any examples?
RJ: Studying with B’nei Mitzvah students and helping them explore their own views on really difficult or controversial subjects. Then, seeing them at their service when they “find their voice” and claim it! They speak their own Torah and become respected as a new voice in the community.
I: What else is in that “aha” journal?
RJ: Following the tragedy in Norway and introduction of anti-Shariah legislation in states across the country, I gave a d’var, and I challenged the congregation to make a difference, to answer ignorance with knowledge, and to build bridges to our Muslim community. From there we created a three part series on Islam that culminated with us studying sacred texts together—Jews and Muslims reading Torah and Koran together.
Then there are the small moments, too—like when a student says, “I passed on my lacrosse game. I didn’t want to miss out on the Religious school’s year-end Maccabiah games.”
I: What’s the best part about being a Rabbi?
RJ: Engaging in “meaning making” with people. Helping them journey through loss, or a tough situation, creating the relationship and the space for exploring deep spiritual issues.
I: Any other ‘stand-outs’?
RJ: Seeing bonds forming. Watching congregants be there for one another. Seeing them rediscover the richness of Judaism. And another one is affecting change—social justice. Like fighting environmental injustice through Justice United to help close the local landfill.
I: What inspires you?
RJ: The congregants inspire me. Their willingness to help, to go beyond for each other, is amazing. Also, gathering with families to compose eulogies inspire me. I am continually uncovering and discovering what it means to live a good life.
I: What’s special about Kehillah?
RJ: I think it’s the engagement. We create opportunities for engagement, for letting Judaism bring meaning to our lives. We’re down to earth. We’re open and caring. We all participate. We have a “collective voice”.
I: If you weren’t a Rabbi, what would you be?
RJ: A community leader. That’s what got me started on my path to becoming a rabbi.
I: Take off your kippa and forget about being a rabbi for a moment—what do you love about being Jewish?
RJ: I love having a language to talk to God, the ritual and structure that Judaism gives us for connecting to God. This is the language of my soul. And when we find our language, we find ourselves.
I: Is there anything “not-so-good” part about being a rabbi?
RJ: Late night meetings!