I recently participated in TribeFest, a gathering of young, up-and-coming leaders, future leaders and just plain good folks, sponsored by Jewish Federations of North America [Jewish Connectivity was a proud partner in the event]. In a really nice conversation, a participant said: “You know, I’ve never had a rabbi. Maybe I should have one. What would I do with one?” While awaiting her follow up (I’m pretty sure it will happen), I reflected on her question. It’s really a great question, especially as the role of the rabbi itself changes (along with so much else in our world).
I’m not sure that there is a “one size fits all” answer. After all, rabbis are a pretty diverse lot. But I can answer it for myself, and am pretty sure that for a good number of my colleagues, the answer to “What would I do with one?” would be pretty similar. So, here goes:
- Study and learn – We love to learn and we love to share what we’ve learned. The better among us also love to know what you have to say about what we share; how you see the texts and wisdom of our tradition.
- Be part of a community – Rabbis love community. We do community in different ways. Some have congregations they lead. I don’t. My communities are people who I study Torah with, the guys I have kiddush with on Shabbat, people I interact with on Twitter and Facebook, and the folks who have decided that I’m their “rabbi of choice”.
- Share jokes – Most of the rabbis I know (and 100% of those that I speak with regularly) have pretty good senses of humor. We can be self-deprecating, laughing at our own foibles. Feel free to share the latest “a rabbi, a priest and a minister…” joke with us.
- Find perspective – As rabbis, we are students of humanity. From our vantage point, we get to see the best and worst of human behavior. We are with people, helping them to mourn losses and to celebrate joyous times. It gives us a good sense of perspective and balance. We like to share that.
- Explore options – Many of us are really good at being the “guide on the side”. My training in social work and skills in life coaching are key to my work as a rabbi. We’re always ready to listen and also to suggest avenues to help people become better Jews and, more importantly, better human beings.
- Buy us coffee or a corned beef sandwich – Rabbis like free things, just like you do. And we like getting out from behind our desks to spend time getting to know you and letting you get to know us.
- Resources – Rabbis are really good at creating resources and at cataloging and recycling resources, especially those pertaining to Jewish living. I love doing this so much that I created a blog (which you’re reading), twitter feed (@JewishConnectiv), Facebook Page (Jewish Connectivity) and podcast (http://jcastnetwork.org/tzomet) just to be able to share resources and ideas. We like having you use our resources.
If you’re a rabbi, what would you add to the list? As a “consumer”, what would you want of a rabbi?