I have spoken to many of my colleagues about this but one of the disappointing parts of being a pulpit rabbi is the inability of getting to experience the breadth of my colleagues’ congregations and visions. It might sound a bit cliche but I am in awe of the work my fellow rabbis do. Hear me out. We spend 5,6, maybe 7 years developing close (extremely close) relationships with our colleagues; in classes, in Israel, and through other areas of rabbinical school. We form together what the Jewish world could be and express ourselves daily. Then we see our classmates present at conferences, read about updates on Facebook and online and share in open spaces. But rarely do we get to experience them as rabbis or feel what they have created.
When I do have a Shabbat off I try to see the shuls they have grown. Luckily, I have seen some of my favorite rabbis at work Rabbis Jeffrey Abraham, David Baum, Nicole Guzik, Erez Sherman Sarah Bassin are amongst many whose Judaism I have been exposed to. Truthfully, I would love to experience more to help my own leadership and vision (especially in prayer spaces) develop. How can rabbis come together to build stronger kehillot?
Often I am asked about other synagogues in the Twin Cities. But I have almost no idea what a Shabbat morning with Rabbis Aaron Weininger or Adam Spilker look like and I wish I did. I wish I could learn from more of my colleagues by being a Jew in the pew.
While walking the Jewish quarter in Venice I thought about how the great rabbis of Italy knew little of the great rabbis of Spain, Jerusalem, etc. Maybe they had heard stories or read about it, but likely they never immersed themselves in the Kavannah that their colleagues created.
I tell many people to “shul shop” just so they can experience the intensity that each rabbi/synagogue brings. I encouraged my HMIers to do this and even my parents when they were moving synagogues. I encourage more people to expand their Jewish perspectives. Bring back pride in your own shul but also help your rabbi(s) see what they cannot see. Help them envision a greater connection in shul. And I hope synagogues allow for their rabbis to explore modes of prayer by seeing other shuls and other rabbis. Even if it means time away from the pulpit; for learning, for perspective and for comradery.