My approach to studying halachah with you is to explore the realm of real people living in the real world. I am not presenting Judaism as only a way of inventing space for God in the world, but also to present our way of life as a way of finding God in the nooks and crannies of our actual lives as we are already living them. This is Torah study that deals with the real world and provides insight into the way we might respond to all sorts of distressing, unexpected-and usually complicated aspects of living in that world. This is a deep exploration of Jewish practice that presumes that the most pious, ethical human being cannot avoid encountering vulgarity, obscenity, impropriety, and boorish behavior. Our central question throughout will be: How can Jewish practice help us to live morally, spiritually, in a compromised and complicated world?
One of the main insights I have gained is that our congregation is going through a period of redefining its identity. There are diverse and opposing opinions within our membership on what we stand for not only as a local congregation, but also as a synagogue identified with the Conservative Movement. In this short essay, I want to begin to suggest a new way to articulate an identity for Congregation B’nai Israel which helps distinguish our place in the community and aligns us with dynamic changes occurring in the Conservative Movement across the country. This new articulation also reflects the approach I have taken and will continue to take while I serve as rabbi of CBI.