I am excited to announce I have created a new series on Pirkei Avot, a collection of dozens of rabbinic wisdom sayings from many centuries ago. This series is taking place in the form of brief videos of me discussing each and every text in the collection.
The series involves a new video releasing every day, Monday through Friday, so far, each of them lasts several minutes. Although I have created them for the enjoyment and edification of the residents at the senior living facility where I am currently serving as the chaplain, it is, of course, also available for other folks out there, as well 🙂
This past Sunday marked the conclusion of my summer “Star Wars and Judaism” series, in which I held live Zoom sessions over the course of a dozen consecutive weeks. Taking place on Sunday evenings from late May through this past Sunday, I put together source sheets on Sefaria and held live Zoom sessions in which I discussed how scenes of the theatrically-released Star Wars movies compared and/or contrasted with Biblical and Rabbinic texts.
Since moving to Cincinnati this summer, I have taken on a new, fascinating, innovative, and unique job. While I described it on my first day on the job, I wanted to describe it a bit further here.
With a job title of Director of Community Engagement and Development, I am the sole employee of MOve2CINCY, a new initiative to grow the Modern Orthodox community in Cincinnati. While part of my job is oriented towards community retention, the big focus of serving as MOve2CINCY’s Director of Community Engagement and Development is recruiting Modern Orthodox families to Cincinnati.
The primary geographic focus of my targeted Modern Orthodox young families will be those living in such high-density population areas such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, since Cincinnati offers key lifestyle advantages over such big city-living, yet while retaining big city amenities.
The key advantages are short commutes, family-friendly community warmth, and housing affordability (especially since, as the Nishma survey of last year found that most Modern Orthodox families have three or more children, with 81% of families having two or more children). Cincinnati has major sports teams, great arts & culture around town, and many jobs available with a major corporations headquartered here, so it still retains a feel of a sizeable city.
A secondary geographic focus is in the opposite direction: recruiting Modern Orthodox families from smaller-sized Jewish communities, attracting them with our Jewish infrastructure and amenities. With a few Orthodox shuls in town, a Kollel, a mikveh, and a handful of kosher restaurants, not to mention a JCC, Jewish Federation, and much more, Cincinnati offers a healthy and meaningful Jewish lifestyle for young Modern Orthodox families, especially those coming from smaller communities.
While the position did not require someone with my rabbinic background, it certainly helps in understanding the Jewish world, organizations, and, of course, Jewish knowledge. It also, of course, helps me in tapping into rabbinic networks, which is an advantageous aspect of having hired a rabbi to fill the position. I would say that this position primarily consists of three broad areas: relationship-building, marketing, and community-building. While the marketing aspect may not have come from my rabbinic background, the other two aspects do. The job largely plays to my strengths, which I enjoy deploying in the service of this worthy effort in community growth.
One of the aspects that contributes to its uniqueness is that it is the only professional position fully dedicated to encouraging Modern Orthodox Jews to move to a particular American city. There has been a trend in recent years for Modern Orthodox Jews, largely living in the American northeast, but in other major cities, as well, looking to leave such metropolitan areas in search of more affordable housing and a kinder lifestyle for families. As such, there is a need on the behalf of families to want to leave such cities, and the Modern Orthodox community of Cincinnati wants to be on the radar of those searching and help them find what they’re looking for. Cincinnati’s Modern Orthodox community is already sizeable and is seeking to develop into a more robust such community.
Today began a new chapter in my professional career, as I begin work at a new job in Ohio. My new job, in a nutshell, is to help develop the Modern Orthodox community in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Hired by a group of committed community members, the big picture for my job is to recruit young Modern Orthodox families to Cincinnati in order to reach a critical mass of families so that there could be a high school. As it currently stands, the lack of a high school option for Modern Orthodox families directly impedes growth here in Cincinnati, whether families leave when their children reach high school age or they simply stay away from moving to Cincinnati, altogether.
While there are some Modern Orthodox families who either send their children to local private schools or to Modern Orthodox schools in other cities, the lack of a Jewish high school that meets the needs of Modern Orthodox families has inhibited the community.
That’s where my work comes in – and there will be a lot of it – but I am excited to help build the Modern Orthodox community here in Cincinnati!
Asked to discuss Shabbat prohibitions at the Orange County Moishe House, I did so last week. In my capacity as the rabbi of Southern California Jewish Young Adult Enrichment, I led a discussion with participants on what Jews are not supposed to do on Shabbat. In the discussion, I used various key texts from the Bible, as well as some from rabbinic literature. Of course, this gave way to further discussion about more contemporary issues and I look forward to discussing these matters further with them.
Last week, I led a conversation for young adults to go over the Passover Seder(s) in order to mentally prepare for it. Taking place in Long Beach on the Sunday prior to the holiday, I led a relaxed conversation (over beer – something we would not be enjoying during the holiday), going over the elements of the Passover Seder(s) and to get people ready for what would be taking place.
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with dozens of students at University of Redlands in collaboration with their Hillel, followed up with a visit to continue the conversations at a local brewery.
Last night, I led a discussion for young adults regarding Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, the “High Holidays”, in the Torah. Part of my “Bible & Brewery” series, visiting different breweries in the greater Orange County-Long Beach area, while exploring Biblical sections, this event took place at The Bruery in Placentia.
Young adult attendees came from Long Beach, Anaheim, and Costa Mesa to join in on this conversation, helping them get mentally ready for the upcoming holidays!
Yesterday, I took part in a really neat program that a local Jewish school ran. Tarbut v’Torah in Irvine has its high school seniors deliver a d’var Torah on a given parashah at some point during the school year. To help them with their speeches, Tarbut v’Torah invited various rabbis from the area to come in and to have the students bounce their thoughts, questions, and ideas on their assigned parshiyot off of them.
The set-up was a round robin “Speed-dating”-style, wherein each student got 7 minutes with various rabbis in a total time-span of just under an hour-and-a-half, which focussed the conversations and allowed the students to be able to interact with and inquire of different rabbis to get different perspectives on their topics.
I enjoyed it, not only because I enjoyed helping out these students in thinking about their respective sections of Torah, but also because it pushed me to deal with questions I wouldn’t have otherwise have considered. I was glad to have helped out with their divrei Torah and wish them the best in their developing of their divrei Torah.