Considering a Curious Question as a Chaplain

June 18, 2020 - Chaplaincy

As I mentioned in my previous post, I began a new job last month and have a received a question that has been popping up from time to time for the past few weeks, yet it now occurs on a daily basis.

With this week being my first without my predecessor, I have received this question on a daily basis, if not multiple times a day: “Which rabbbinical school did you attend?” as well as a different iteration of it: “Which denomination are you?”

While I understand a certain level of interest in the latter question, as to perhaps serving in a certain capacity or having a familiarity with their level of practice, I get a sense that they only want to see if I am “one of them”, whether it’s in observance or some sort of loyalty.

A similar sense occurs to me when they inquire as to which rabbinical school I attended. While I understand there is a local rabbinical school and many of the rabbis in town attended that one, so they may have some familiarity with the school and/or other graduates of the local rabbinical school, when I tell them I attended one in New York, they may ask me which one, but I get the same sense from them as before: do you have local ties to a familiar local institution?

I am very tempted to deploy a different tactic when answering these questions: responding with a question. I am very tempted to ask them “Why are you interested?”

I think this may work, since I am getting the sense as a chaplain that they may be more interested in sharing about themselves, especially as it relates to their previous encounters/experiences with other rabbis. As such, it is not worth their time nor mine to talk about where I attended rabbinical school, since their question is not actually about me, but about them.

Wish me luck on using this new dialogic tactic.

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