Our synagogues are figuring it out. In order to have a successful synagogue that brings in the younger generation, OUR generation, you need to have a cool Rabbi.
Twin Cities, meet the first of the new pack of cool rabbis to come to town, Rabbi Jeremy Fine, at Temple of Aaron.
Rabbi Jeremy Fine may be a familiar face to some of you. He spent 11 years at Camp Ramah, as a camper counselor, and community head. And although he’s spent several years in New York, and in Israel, studying to be a rabbi, he’s a Midwestern guy, growing up in the Chicago area and getting his bachelor’s at U-Illinois.
He’s also got a great sense of humor, a passion for Judaism and for bringing young energy and new life into our synagogues and into our Jewish communities, a love of writing (check out his Jewish sports blog The Great Rabbino and get ready to see his writing on TC Jewfolk starting this July), and, most importantly, he knows his Sex and the City. OK, that’s not the most important, but pretty cool nonetheless.
Rabbi Jeremy Fine was officially ordained as a Rabbi yesterday (Mazals!). Despite what I’m sure must have been a whirlwind of a week for him, he penned – okay, typed – a few answers to TC Jewfolk’s all-so-important e-mail questions:
TC Jewfolk: What are you most excited about moving to Minnesota?
Rabbi Fine: There are two answers to this question. The first and most obvious is that I am excited to be working at a synagogue that is ready to grow and add meaning into people’s lives. My wife and I fell in love with the community immediately and I cannot wait to get started. Secondly and less significantly, I am excited to be back on Central Standard Time. Sporting events go way too late into the night in New York.
TCJ: What do you think you’ll bring to Temple of Aaron?
RF: I have always prided myself on trying to be an accessible Rabbi, someone who made learning fun and could help anyone young or old find Jewish meaning in their life. I hope to bring a sincerity to our current members and an outgoing/easy to relate to personality to the community at large. My goal is to use services, programming, and spontaneous moments as a way to contact.
TCJ: You said in your interview with OyChicago that in order to get Jews in their 20s & 30s to join synagogues, you will have to “meet people where they are” – what does that look like to you?
RF: I want to be able to open up my home to guests, meet young professionals throughout the city, or take in a Twins gam . But I think the biggest thing is to bring them into the synagogue conversation. Often the questions we ask or the sermons rabbis give are not geared towards a younger crowd. I hope to engage the young professionals in real life questions and to explore Judaism through culture and learning.
TCJ: But really, why do we still need synagogues?
RF: While the Independent Minyanim or other small organizations are great and provide a different resource, eventually people want a large community. A larger community will take care of them when there are in unfortunate circumstances. Also, as my generation begins having children (which is later than the last generation) we will want an envirnoment for them to run around, have a Shabbat experience, and offer resources and opportunities for our children to experience.
TCJ: That’s awesome that you met like a bagillion Minnesota Jews in your many years at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. What’s your favorite memory from Ramah?
RF: This is definitely the toughest question you have asked because there are too many memories. So I guess I will choose my most recent memory. Last summer my wife and I along with many other of my friends made our way up to camp for our 13 year reunion. This was the third time I had taken my wife to camp. But this time with all of my friends she understood the importance and excitement of Camp Ramah. At that moment I realized my life at Camp Ramah was not over and we would get to relive the excitement through our children. Also I was oddly terrified of climbing the ropes course, but that is another story for another day.
Rabbi Fine, his wife & baby to be (they’re due in August) will be hitting the TC in July. Stay tuned! Should be awesome!
(Photo: Zazzle.com Judaism Cool Kids Mug)