Honoring My Teachers
Even those of us who are privileged to call ourselves teachers (which is what the word rabbi means after all) never cease being students. All of us are who we are only because we were blessed to come into contact with a teacher or two or three who unlocked something inside of us, and enabled us to grow into the people we were destined to become.
This page is dedicated to my teachers....my parents, Debi and Michael Brown...my sixth grade Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Betty Wilson, who taught me what it meant to be a citizen of the world...and to the patient and kind faculty members at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, who taught me Torah in the best sense of the word, particularly: Professors David Ellenson, Kenneth Ehrlich, Michael Meyer, David Weisberg z"l, Edward Goldman, Michael Cook, Barry Kogan, Richard Sarason, Samuel Joseph, Mark Washofsky, David Aaron, Nili Fox, Susan Einbinder, Gary Zola, Jonathan Krasner, David Komerofsky, Ruth Alpers, Helene Dallaire, and Yvonne Shor.
Take a moment to consider the teachers who most impacted your life. Was it a loving parent or grandparent at home? An inspiring middle school teacher? Or perhaps a treasured mentor? If you haven't already done so, let them know how much their teaching has meant to you.
We also pay tribute to our teachers by reciting the words of Kaddish D'Rabbanan in their honor. The prayer is particularly moving to me because of its reference to "the students of the students of the students..." The chain of tradition is ongoing, from one generation to the next.
From Kaddish d'Rabbanan:
עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל רַבָּנָן, וְעַל תַּלְמִידֵיהוֹן וְעַל כָּל תַּלְמִידֵי תַלְמִידֵיהוֹן, וְעַל כָּל מָאן דְּעָסְקִין בְּאוֹרַיְתָא, דִּי בְאַתְרָא הָדֵין וְדִי בְכָל אֲתַר וַאֲתַר.יְהֵא לְהוֹן וּלְכוֹן שְׁלָמָא רַבָּא, חִנָּא וְחִסְדָּא וְרַחֲמִין, וְחַיִּין אֲרִיכִין, וּמְזוֹנֵי רְוִיחֵי, וּפֻרְקָנָא, מִן קֳדָם אֲבוּהוֹן דִּי בִשְׁמַיָּא, וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן
God of Heaven and Earth, grant abundant peace to our people Israel and their rabbis, to our teachers and their disciples, and to all who engage in the study of Torah here and everywhere. Let there be for them and for us all, grace, love, and compassion, a full life, ample sustenance, and salvation from God, and let us respond: Amen. For us and all Israel, may the blessing of peace and the promise of life come true, and let us respond: Amen. May the One who causes peace to reign in the high heavens, let peace descend on us, and on all Israel, and on all the world, and let us respond: Amen. Translation from Mishkan T'filah: A Reform Siddur (2007)
The Giants of Our Time
I choose to note my own place in the chain of contemporary liberal Judaism by offering up the following photo montage of leading Jewish theologians, thinkers, and figures of the last two hundred years, each of whom has touched me or my teachers to varying degrees. Some are alive, and some have passed on. Some I've encountered in person, and some through their writing. I've included several of these individuals because their entire worldview resonates deeply with my own. And I've included others...not necessarily because I agree with them, but because I have found their life's work to be so provocative as to challenge me to broaden my own perspective of what it means to be a husband, father, rabbi, and human being. If these names and faces are unfamiliar to you, then I invite you to step into my classroom so that I can introduce you to them, and the wonderful words and ideas that they have bequeathed to us. And if we have the chance to meet and dialogue together, I hope you'll also introduce me to your teachers....the people and ideas that shaped you into the one you are today.