by Rabbi Sarah Marion, August 2019/Tamuz-Av 5778
I have a confession to make.
Even before Rabbi Evan Schultz and Search Chair Nina Silberman called me with the exciting offer to become your next Assistant Rabbi, I’ve been joining B’nai Israel’s Shabbat Services via livestream. The sounds of the 8 a.m. Shabbat service have serenaded me on my drive to my own Shabbat morning activities in Baltimore; the Friday evening recordings have made for great listing while washing my Shabbes dishes, after leading services of my own.
As I began imagining the prospect of coming to B’nai Israel, I sought to understand the essence of who you are. And now that I am finally here with you for Shabbat, for holidays, for religious school, for study sessions and social action endeavors and so much more – I know that my appreciation and admiration for the B’nai Israel community will only continue to grow.
But all that I have seen and felt and experienced thus far — both live stream and in person — leads me to say, for certainty, that I have joined a community in which ties between members are strong and deep. I have joined a community that is eager to swim in the rejuvenating seas of prayer, social justice, and Jewish learning. I have joined a community unafraid of asking the biggest and most important questions around who we are and who we are meant to be. I am so deeply honored to be joining this sacred and special place.
I am a graduate of Brandeis University, where I majored in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies. During my rabbinic studies at HUC-JIR’s New York campus, I earned an M.A. in Religious Education and completed two units of Clinical Pastoral Education at two New York City area hospitals.
I come to you after serving for three years as Assistant Rabbi and Director of Youth Engagement at Temple Oheb Shalom in Baltimore. As a Westchester and New York City native with close family friends in the Fairfield area, I am thrilled to be “coming home” and I am even more thrilled to be returning to Yankees territory – although I understand that Rabbi Schultz (and perhaps a few more of you) might have a bone to pick with me about my baseball affinities. Aside from baseball, I enjoy yoga, cooking and also eating. Most of all, I love spending time with my husband, Seth, and our two kids, Michaela (3.5 years) and Levi (13 months) who are both new and proud members of our Bonim preschool.
In the personal statement that I submitted to Nina and the Rabbinic Search Committee, I described Moses and Miriam as the paradigms through which I envision my role as your rabbi. Upon crossing the Red Sea, we read that “Moses sang his song to the Eternal, and the Israelites joined in…and then Miriam picked up a hand drum and all the women went out after her in dance with hand drums” (Exodus 15:1; 15:20-21). Like Moses, I am eager to humbly stand before you in worship, study, and life cycle, bringing Judaism into dialogue with the most sacred moments of our lives. And, like Miriam, I am eager to stand among you, reaching out my hand and partnering with you at every opportunity to dream, imagine and create a Judaism that responds to our biggest questions and deepest yearnings.
Over the past month, I have been blessed to meet and connect with so many of you, as we have begun the process of sharing our stories and our hopes and dreams for the future. I am eager to continue to meet and get to know every member of the B’nai Israel community. And I am eager to discover all the best coffee, ice cream and frozen yogurt spots in the area. And so in the coming days and weeks, I would be thrilled for the opportunity to discuss our favorite ice cream flavors and then hear about what brought you to B’nai Israel, and what you hope and imagine for its future.
As we continue to get to know one another and embark on this sacred partnership, I pray that we come to experience a deeper sense of understanding, belonging, connectivity and love for Judaism, for one another, and for this magnificent synagogue community in which we are all so fortunate to call our home.