Spiritual leader of a Jewish congregation; qualified to expound and apply Jewish law.
Oh, I’m sure you’re thinking, Rabbi, ‘if only that were the only things I do’. It did not take me long to realize that these words do not begin to define what congregations expect a modern Rabbi to be. There has always been more to
being a Rabbi than knowledge of the law. A Rabbi, or more accurately, our Rabbi, is also comforter, consoler, and confidante; officiant at life cycle ceremonies; programmer and planner; administrator; visionary and seer; fundraiser and community leader; figurehead and symbol.
If someone was to say to me, but Fred, what does Rabbi White really mean to this congregation, I would say the following:
You always keep in mind the big picture of who and what we are as a religious community. You keep track of all the details of Shabbat services, of holidays, of individual life-cycle events. You quietly coach us in the “Jewish way” when
we err. You help us keep B’nai Israel strong, and work with and coach the lay leadership to execute their roles to the best of their abilities.
You know each and every one of us, our current situation, our past history and our future hopes and dreams. You are there encouraging us in the happy times and supporting us through the difficult ones. You keep us grounded in the synagogue, in our congregation and in our community. You represent us to the world outside of B’nai Israel, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
Your interest and commitment to interfaith activity has led us to become members of Solano County Common Ground. Your leadership within this group has raised our profile among the religious community of Vallejo and Solano County.
I think the greatest challenge facing the modern synagogue is our need to welcome and affirm people, empower them to act, inspire them to know how competent, capable, and good they are. Judaism can only survive if individuals choose to live it, because it touches something within them.
You, Rabbi White, are the face of our congregation. You help each and every one of us feel part of this community.
The Shabbat service is the central expression of the character and mission of the synagogue. There is great power in the ceremonial observances which take place during services. Over the years, you have guided it to be not only a
vehicle for prayer and teaching, but an experience that brings together our community. You offer to us a variety of Shabbat experiences that give voice to the varied sounds of prayer in our community. Our Shabbat services afford us an opportunity for worship, for study, for prayer, and reflection on what is most precious in our lives. Also, you have taught us how to lead and
conduct services when there is no Rabbi.
You love our children for they are our future. As parents, one of our most important responsibilities is to teach our children right from wrong, to give them solid values, and to teach them the tenets, beliefs and traditions of Judaism. Your clear love of the children of Congregation B’nai Israel helps our community provide them with the foundation they need as they move into
adulthood. You give our children the opportunity to participate in the life of our community, support them in good times and bad, counsel and provide us advice as parents and Jews, and finally share our pride in them and their accomplishments.
Our children are prepared to become B’nai Mitzvot, primarily because of your high standards, your ability and willingness to adapt the learning to their individual capabilities and your infinitely patient and effective ways of teaching them.
You are a Rabbi that is as comfortable dressed up for the High Holidays as you are dressed as a wizard or a cowboy on Purim.
Our tradition teaches that behavior takes priority over belief and that faith without deeds will not change the world. For 10 years you have helped our community grow and thrive. You have officiated at life-cycle events, from baby-namings, to B’nai Mitzvot, to conversions.
Rabbi White, you inspire people to live Jewishly, because they want to, because they feel it in their soul. You guide us through the seasons of our lives and help us with the tools that we can use every day to transform us as Jews and as members of this congregation. Thank you for being in our lives as our Rabbi, and personally as my friend. May you continue to share in our simchas and guide us through all the cycles of our lives.
This is just the beginning of our celebration of 10 years with Rabbi White. In the coming months we are planning a special evening event to further celebrate Rabbi White’s 10 years at Congregation B’nai Israel. A committee is forming, let me know if you would like to help.
Thank you Rabbi White for being our Spiritual Advisor,
President, Congregation B’nai Israel