BY RABBI PATRICK ALEPH / AJT //
Since I’m the new kid on the block, it’s only polite that I take a moment to introduce myself. Thing is, we’ve actually met before: You saw me on the cover of the Atlanta Jewish Times several months ago. It’s a pleasure to see you again!
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In case you missed the last article, here’s a brief rundown: I’m a former touring rock musician and serial entrepreneur who left the for-profit world to help make Judaism more accessible to people who need it. My organization, PunkTorah.org, is an online community for people who have fallen through the cracks of Jewish life – think synagogue merged with Facebook.
Also, I’m a recently ordained post-denominational rabbi, and, more importantly, I am engaged to my loving partner Stefanie. Play your cards right, and you can come to the wedding.
All writers are biased, and since we’re about to engage in the sacred author-reader relationship, I think it’s best you know where I am coming from and what you can expect of me.
I know that it’s hard to imagine a rabbi without a shul, but you might be surprised to learn that there are many of us in Atlanta. This doesn’t mean I am anti-synagogue or that I don’t appreciate a good prayer service.
I have taught at several synagogues here in Atlanta, and have a pretty high regard for the rabbis in this town. Alas, like many of my generation, synagogue just didn’t click for me.
And, like many of you, I find my Judaism in other places. I look forward to sharing those moments with you in this column.
Holy, Holy, Holy
I’m fascinated by the holiness of everyday things, including Starbucks and my cat. Judaism teaches that kadosh (holiness) can be found in some strange places. That’s certainly true for me; every day, I’m filled with a sense of awe about the oddest things.
For example, I think that Starbucks has a lot in common with the mishkan (tabernacle) our ancestors built during the Exodus from Egypt. And just the other day, my cat’s post-traumatic stress disorder helped me to understand the problem people have with prayer.
Me and G-d
Most of my friends are atheists. And while it frustrates me to hear them talk about those “crazy religious people” – seeing as how I’m one of them – I do agree with their thinking: religion is often insane, and the notion of a god who is our parent in the sky, shooting down lightning bolts like Zeus is over the top.
But, unlike my friends, I refuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I believe in G-d so deeply that I am not afraid of challenging that belief and to feel illuminated in that challenge. I believe that G-d is the creator, the creation and the process of creating.
I believe in a G-d of the heart, who brings us into a fuller sense of our humanity.
Shalom and Howdy
There are 120,000 Jews in Atlanta, and I hope to meet every one of them. I love making new friends. So please send in letters to the editor and post your comments below my articles online.
In Rabbi Aleph’s next column, learn why 75 percent of Jewish Atlanta could care less about the Jewish community, and what you can do to solve that problem.