Today is September 22, 2019 /

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Chizuk Amuno Congregation

20 Things to Appreciate for 20 years

While most of my classmates are marking 20 years in the rabbinate and reflecting on how the rabbinate has changed in 20 years, I have the remarkable gift of not only 20 years in the rabbinate but also 20 years here at Chizuk Amuno.

  1. Family – how fortunate I am, and my whole family is, to have been welcomed, embraced, and made integral to the Chizuk Amuno family.
  2. Growth – when I arrived here I had never officiated at a funeral, taught a middle schooler, or made announcements at services. Thank you for the space to learn and grow.
  3. Mentoring – I am so fortunate to have learned from many other rabbis during my 20 years. Each one has expanded my rabbinate and been a true teacher to me. Rabbi Zaiman is my first and greatest mentor but Rabbi Shulman also taught me about crafting a prayer service and Rabbi Gruenberg is teaching me about humanness and relationships in the context of the synagogue.
  4. Longevity – by now I’ve been able to officiate at multiple generations of simchas for families. For the first couple at whose wedding I officiated (shout out to Michelle and Jeff Cooper) we’ve also celebrated baby namings, B’not mitzvah, and graduations. Being a part of the fabric of a family’s Jewish life is a great gift.
  5. Forgiveness – Regrets? I’ve had a few. Oh the many mistakes I’ve made over these 20 years. I am so grateful for your understanding and for the forgiveness when offered.
  6. Openness – it’s true that I’ve had some crazy ideas and you have been with me for the journey. You understood that these ideas came from a place of wanting Chizzie to grow wings and explore. Thank you for moving your Shabbat morning seats, for mentoring other Bnei mitzvah families, for inviting strangers to holiday meals, for leaving the beloved Main Sanctuary on Shabbat and holidays and any of the other crazy and not so crazy things we’ve experimented with these 20 years.
  7. Freedom – freedom of the pulpit is no small thing and it is a gift that Chizuk Amuno gives its rabbis.
  8. Vision – if you had told me that I would be a pulpit rabbi at a legacy congregation, I wouldn’t have believed you. I appreciate that you saw something in me that I did not see in myself.
  9. Learning – you have encouraged and advocated for my professional growth. It’s not easy to keep learning and growing in a job for 20 years. And you have continually encouraged me to engage in professional development, conferences, rabbi camp, and travel which have benefited both of us.
  10. Parental Leave – when people ask if I’ve had a sabbatical I usually joke and say that I’ve had two and they both started with epidurals and ended with three month olds. While parental leave should be a right, it is also a gift and my family is grateful for Chizuk Amuno’s commitment to a family friendly work environment.
  11. Partnership – this is not work that one does alone. The best moments and accomplishments are those that have been achieved through partnership with lay people. I’m especially appreciative of the presidents, committee chairs, and lay leaders with whom I’ve partnered and who have supported me.
  12. Colleagues – if you asked me what I most value about my colleagues at Chizuk Amuno, I would answer that they are most valuable sounding board I have ever found. Our staff is where I turn when I have an idea in need of fleshing out, a problem in need of solving, or a decision I need to make.
  13. Shabbat Community – one of my personal requirements for a rabbinic position was if there existed a “Shabbat community” where people gathered for meals, play, and friendship on Shabbatot and holidays. Each week on the playground, each year on sukkot I appreciate the warm community at Chizuk Amuno.
  14. Football – despite growing up with three brothers, I had no interest in football until I came to Baltimore and discovered the Ravens. Even though I often forget to wear purple on Friday, my heart belongs to my hometown team!
  15. Notes – I’ve got a file full of every note you’ve written me over 20 years. I’m so appreciative that you have taken the time to share your thoughts and gratitude with me.
  16. Jane of all trades – at Chizuk I’ve had the opportunity to set up chairs, light a bonfire, serve school lunch, lead Israel trips, kasher a kitchen, teach sex ed, bake challah, host a film festival, take fifth grade art, and paint walls. The variety of experiences is one of the best parts of my job.
  17. Change – a person undergoes significant changes over the course of 20 years. I am grateful that the congregation has supported me through all of mine.
  18. Food – one of my cherished Chizzie memories is when there used to be a snow day and Dorothy Rainess would make lunch by scavenging whatever she could find in the synagogue kitchen. The few hearty staff members who braved the weather would gather in the main office to feast on latkes, tuna fish and frozen coffee strip. Feeding staff is a way to care for them and Chizuk does it well.
  19. Baltimore – I wish I could write a love letter to my adopted city. When I committed to being your rabbi I had spent all of 24 hours in Baltimore. I thought Charm was something you learned in finishing school and Old Bay was the body of water opposite the ocean on barrier islands. Now, my children are native Baltimoreans and we delight in the Sunday morning Farmer’s market under the JFX, Passover visits to Fort McHenry, Old Bay Salted Caramel ice cream from the Charmery, sunset over Middle River, and hiking Lake Roland. Thanks for bringing me home, Hon.
  20. A Future – Chizuk Amuno has always been a place that dreams. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to dream together with you about what Chizuk Amuno might be and might become. Being part of a community that is imaginative and brave has been one of the greatest gifts of my rabbinate.

 

Todah Rabbah, thank you from the bottom of my heart for these 20 extraordinary years. I’m grateful for them, and for the years that are yet to come!

 

Debi