By Rabbi Splasnky.
The jewel in the crown of the Reform Movement is our seminary, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. HUC-JIR has four campuses: Cincinnati, Ohio, New York, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem. Each campus is unique in its history, in the graduate programs it offers, in the museums, archives, and libraries it houses, in the faculty of scholars it supports, and in the community services it offers. Since its founding in 1875, the original campus in Cincinnati has sent its students to serve the small Jewish communities throughout the American South and Midwest. The program provides small congregations with leadership and rabbinic students with hands-on experience and training outside the classroom.
During my years at HUC-JIR I was fortunate enough to be matched with four wonderful congregations: in College Station, Texas, in Petoskey, Michigan, in Grand Junction, Colorado, and in Cary, North Carolina. I’d spend one or two weekends a month with the good people who sustained Jewish life in these far-flung communities. I learned from them the power of Jewish resilience and the pride of small-town Jewry. When people here in Toronto tell me about their own upbringing in rural Ontario, in Saint John or St. John’s, I’m reminded of the families I met in my “student pulpits.”
The rabbinic internships have grown more sophisticated over the years and now fifth-year students can request a placement with a large congregation. I was pleased to receive a call from Rabbi-Professor Jan Katzew, informing us that a very bright student has submitted an application for a summer internship with Holy Blossom Temple. This is one of the greatest compliments for a congregation like ours. To be clear: there was no position, no call for applicants, no search committee. But when a thoughtful and ambitious student says to a congregation, I’d like to learn from you, we say as we do to any curious and keen learner: please come and join us. Our Temple Board and our Clergy Team unanimously and enthusiastically agreed to provide this terrific learning opportunity and we look forward to the good things to come from it.
Who is Sam Kaye?
Sam Kaye is from Denver, Colorado. He earned a degree in History and Religious Studies from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. His undergraduate thesis was on The Maharal of Prague and the Golem Legend. He also spent a year studying at the rigorous Jewish Studies program at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem. He has served small congregations in Beckley, West Virginia, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and most recently Paducah, Kentucky. He’s held internships at the Chautauqua Institute of New York, Temple Emanuel of Denver, as well as the vibrant Hillel on the campus of Miami University of Ohio.
Sam was attracted to Holy Blossom Temple because he is entering his fifth and final year of rabbinical school and will soon be searching for his first position as an ordained Rabbi. Before entering the placement process Sam wants to see a large congregation at work. He wants to see a large team of staff, Rabbis and Cantors at work. He wants to see a large and diverse group of volunteers and lay leaders at work. He knows the strengths of small congregations. Now he wants to explore the strengths of a large and leading congregation.
Sam was drawn to Holy Blossom Temple not only for our size, but also because we sit on the traditional wing of the Reform Movement as he does in his personal practice. When I asked Sam how he learned about Holy Blossom Temple, I was surprised to hear that my Second Day Rosh HaShanah sermon from two years ago was being taught in the required Homiletics class for third year students. He says he wishes to learn from Rabbis who make sacred texts relevant in the lives of her and his congregants.
Sam will be with us for seven weeks, from Shabbat Rosh Chodesh, June 23 to Shabbat Ekev, August 12. During that time he will offer two adult courses, likely in the area of his rabbinic thesis research on the Kabbalah and the theology of Rabbi Art Green. He will support our daily and Shabbat services. He will visit congregants in hospital and senior residences and offer support for our Tuesday evening Bereavement Group. Sam will accompany Rabbi Helfman, Rabbi Satz, and me when we officiate at life-cycle occasions. He’ll join our weekly Clergy Team meetings and take up special projects as time allows.
The summer internship is made possible thanks to a grant from HUC’s benefactor, The Mayerson Foundation. The program requires us to develop a “learning contract” and to provide weekly mentoring meetings to reflect on the work-study experience. The internship is considered an extension of HUC’s curriculum. I look forward to getting to know Sam and helping him clarify for himself the rabbinic path he chooses to pursue.
A Request or Two
We are searching for a good place for Sam to stay for seven weeks or perhaps two places for three and a half weeks each. Is there a congregant who’s looking for a responsible house-sitter for the summer? Is there a congregant with an attached apartment, available and close to public transportation? Sam has no allergies and isn’t known to throw wild parties! If you have any ideas, please drop me a line at [email protected]. I’d be very grateful for your help.
We’d also like to give Sam a warm welcome into the community. If you’d like to host him for Shabbat dinner, take him out for a coffee or to one of Toronto’s great summer spots – a concert, a bike ride by the lake or a walk in the park, etc. – please let me know. The best way for him to get to know the life of our congregation is by getting to know YOU. You may be lucky enough to meet Sam’s fiancé, too, when she comes for a visit.
Thank you for joining me in welcoming Sam Kaye into our congregation. We wish him a summer of learning and growth, discovery and insight.