As you may be aware, I will be on sabbatical from May 18-August 18, 2021. This is the remaining 3 months of my 6-month sabbatical from my 7th year at Bet Ha’am. To make things smoother for the congregation, rather than taking all 6 months at once, I take two 3-month sabbaticals, the first in the 7th year and the second in a subsequent year. I am excited to share with you here some of my plans.
I have just begun working on the major project for my sabbatical. I am partnering with a copyeditor and proofreader so that I can publish a small collection of my sermons, in particular, my answers to our B’nai Mitzvah students’ big questions. Over the course of the past 10 years at Bet Ha’am, I have had more than 120 B’nai Mitzvah students. In the past couple of months, I have been sorting through and rereading my answers to our teens’ questions and will eventually select a good number of them as a collection for publication. I have not yet determined if the book will be a collection of questions about a particular theme, such as theology or afterlife, or if it will be a more eclectic collection. Initially, I decided to explore the self-publishing route, but at CCAR Convention, I had a chance to talk to Rabbi Barry Schwartz, Director of the Jewish Publication Society, who asked to see a manuscript when it is ready. I don’t know that JPS will pick it up, but if they do, that’d be wonderful. No matter, I anticipate that I will be able to share information about ordering the book when I return from sabbatical in August.
Even though the process of producing a manuscript and publishing will take a lot of time and effort, I also plan to explore worship at other synagogues, some locally and others through the wonders of livestream and Zoom, in order to glean some best practices for our congregation that will help us enhance our services. My day-to-day rabbinate leaves very little time for learning and reading, so I also look forward to exploring a few new Jewish publications and exploring online learning opportunities through the CCAR and other Jewish institutions.
In order to prepare for my sabbatical, I have been meeting with a Sabbatical Task Force to ensure that each aspect of my rabbinate is covered during my absence. At this point, I have lined up lay leaders who will be in charge of each of the following: worship leaders, Torah readers, speakers at services, pastoral care, and Torah Study. I have connected with colleagues across the state who will be on call in the event of a pastoral emergency; Karen will triage those situations. I will also be asking a lay leader to serve as the sabbatical ombudsman should any questions or concerns arise during my sabbatical. Watch your email for further details. During my absence, two B’nai Mitzvah will occur this summer. Both are students who were supposed to have celebrated almost a year ago, when the pandemic had just begun. Both families knew I would not be available due to my sabbatical but are very excited to have an in-person service this summer. I am disappointed that I won’t be able to celebrate with those families, but I do plan to prepare an answer to each of those students’ big questions so that they do not miss out on that experience.
I will return to Bet Ha’am two-and-a-half weeks before Rosh Hashanah. I have already begun working with Karen on High Holy Day honors and will meet with Sharon Newman upon my return to plan liturgy and music. I will be delving into writing my High Holy Day sermons during my sabbatical and will refine them upon my return. While we don’t yet know the format of our High Holy Day worship in the fall, I look forward to adapting to whatever the circumstances warrant. During my last sabbatical lay leadership created our first A Storied Affair, which I was delighted to learn about upon my return. It has since become one of our most successful events and fundraisers. I am confident that we will create a successful plan for the High Holy Days.
I want to extend my gratitude to each of you for this opportunity. The chance to deepen my spirituality, restore my soul, and regain my center after this year is truly a blessing. Kirk and Zak also thank you. We hope this summer to explore Maine, really for the first time since moving here 10 years ago. Aside from the greater Portland area, we’ve been to Brunswick and Bath a handful of times, Acadia twice, Popham Beach once, and Calais for about an hour, so if there’s a part of Maine that you love that we should know about, please let me know before May 18.
Have a wonderful, healthy, and happy summer and I look forward to reconnecting with you in August.