Ordinarily skipping one’s own senior sermon at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College would be cause for concern, but in Micah Weiss’ case, it was cause for celebration.
“My wife called me as we were two minutes in, and I stepped out of the room and she told me we were having babies [twins] that day,” he said. “I walked back in and said, ‘My wife is giving birth,’ and everyone cheered, and I left in the middle of things. That was my senior sermon.”
Weiss grew up in Atlanta as a member of Congregation Bet Haverim, the son of an interfaith family.
“It was the place that felt the most welcoming for my parents when they were trying to find a Jewish home to raise their children,” he said. “I grew up surrounded by love and in a community that lived out Jewish values with deep integrity.”
As a child, his diverse community and political activism defined his early journey in Judaism.
“I was not involved a lot in Jewish life outside of the synagogue,” he said. “CBH and our home really were the central orienting sites of my Jewish identity. My dad has been the Tikkun Olam chair and my mom has built a really beautiful music program, and that was a big part of my growing up.”
Rabbi Joshua Lesser at CBH helped Weiss become a bar mitzvah and he sang in the synagogue choir his mother directed, which kept him connected to Judaism throughout his time at Henry W. Grady High School.
“Rabbi Josh was a really big part of my journey. He is a mentor and a counselor and has been there at every big life moment,” he said. “He will be at graduation and will be giving me a blessing as part of the ceremony.”
Weiss added that Lesser was a role model for being a rabbi — a thought that first blossomed around his bar mitzvah — but perhaps more importantly for being a mensch.
“I first had the thought of becoming a rabbi pretty young,” he said, “but I didn’t take the idea seriously until my first job after college. I was organizing faith-based communities to support an anti-gun violence program … and I realized I wanted to do this kind of work in the Jewish community. I thought that sounded like what a rabbi might do.”
Weiss graduated from Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and African-American studies and worked for Atlanta-based Etgar 36, where he organized civil rights trips about history, politics and activism.
He attended Yeshivat Hadar in New York for two years and celebrated his graduation from RRC Sunday, but that was not the only recent milestone. He and his wife, Nomi Teutsch, welcomed twin sons into their lives last month, and Weiss has a new role as the assistant director for Thriving Communities and Tikkun Olam specialist at Reconstructing Judaism, the central organization of the Reconstructionist movement.
“Thriving Communities department provides support to the almost 100 Reconstructionist synagogues and chaverot [groups of friends],” he said. “As a Tikkun Olam specialist, I help the movement and our communities deepen our commitments to social justice.”
Weiss reflected on the confluence of so many life-altering events in such a short time.
“There’s a Jewish principle that we try not to group moments of joy and holiness on top of one another, … and, sometimes people plan and G-d laughs. I don’t think it would be possible to add any more joy but it has been an incredible blessing”
Weiss took a moment to reflect on what Reconstructionist Judaism means to him.
“I lived much of my adult life as a pretty traditionally observant person, but for me what gives me my commitment to Judaism is connection to other Jewish people,” he said. “From a Reconstructionist approach, there cannot be a Judaism other than the lived experience of the Jewish people.”