My congregation has finally been able to stop calling itself wandering Jews, as we found a place to alight after being told to leave the church where we have met for the past 15 months.
I was moved and touched by the several churches who reached out to us after the painful expulsion for no known reason. They hoped that the cause was not antisemitism and assured us that we are more than welcome on their campuses.
The congregation was understandably unwilling to try another church after this negative experience, but we very much appreciated those who reached out to us with such kindness and open heartedness.
In the end, we decided to return to the community center where we used to gather, because it has re-opened after closing because of Covid.
During the search for a new home, a board member sent an email with the subject line “wondering Jews.” In a very real way, his typo was appropriate. We were wondering what was going to happen next, where we would pray and gather as a community.
Now that the congregation’s situation has been resolved, I find myself a wondering Jew. Tomorrow night is my last service as rabbi. I announced my retirement several months ago and an interim Rabbi will step in next weekend.
Choosing to retire at age 65 was complicated. Many clergy people, Jewish and Christian, left their jobs this past year, because of the enormous stresses caused by the pandemic.
In addition, I lost two close colleagues in a short time. First was the death of Reverend Virginia Herring, the priest who invited us to St Wilfred’s’s church. She was a trusted friend, and her loss hurt. Just eight months later my friend Mindy Simmons died suddenly of an aggressive cancer. Mindy was more than a friend; she was a close colleague. She had worked as our guitarist and music director for five years, and was two years younger than me. I was devastated.
Having decided to retire, I now find myself wondering about my future. It’s fortunate that I can’t afford to retire completely, because not working would be disastrous.
I’ve given myself the title Community Rabbi, in contrast with my old identity as a congregational rabbi. What does that mean in the real world? I’m not sure.
I am fortunate that I stumbled into another identity, serving as Dean of the Liberal Yeshiva. The mainstay of the yeshiva died 18 months ago, and I called his widow and asked her blessing on reopening it. She was delighted.
Although being Dean of the Liberal Yeshiva is more “real” than dubbing myself Community Rabbi, I still find myself wondering what my future will look like, how I will spend my days, will I be successful or will I feel lonely and lost.