What I do
• I serve as the rabbi of Temple Sinai of Cranston, Rhode Island.
• I used to answer “Ask the Rabbi” questions on About.com. My answers are still on their site.
• I am a member of the Reform Movement's Joint Commission on Worship, Music and Religious Living.
• My Jewish Learning named me one of "America's Real Top Rabbis 2012" without suffering measurable damage to its reputation.
What is a “Reb”?
In the South, the term “Reb” can be heard as a short form of “Rebel” – a member of the Confederacy, or one who fancies to be in its lineage. If you're a scientist, "REB" is a relativistic electron beam, useful for atmospheric research.
However, if you are a Jew of Ashkenazic (Eastern European) descent, “Reb” has another meaning. It is a title for a faithful Jewish man, the equivalent of "Mister" in English. Unlike "Mister," though, "Reb" always is used with a person's first name, for example, "Reb Moishe," "Reb Nosan," or "Reb Shmuel."
Don't confuse “Reb” with “Rebbe.” That is a title for the leader of a chasidic dynasty. A “Reb” is not necessarily a rabbi. He is simply, “a good Jew.” That should be enough for anybody!
About Reb Jeff
This blog started as a conversation. I used to meet every week with a few of my rabbi and cantor friends to do a little Jewish studying and schmoozing at the coffee shop to begin the day. We did this for several years and our conversation kept coming back to the same question: What will inspire today's Jews to rediscover how Judaism can make their lives sweeter, happier and more meaningful? I don't pretend to have a definitive answer to this question, but I do like the conversation. In fact, the conversation itself, ultimately, may be the answer to the question.
I am a congregational rabbi. My name is Jeff Goldwasser. I live and work in Rhode Island and I serve as the rabbi of Temple Sinai in Cranston. I was ordained in 2000 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (the seminary of Judaism's Reform Movement).
Unlike many of my classmates in rabbinic school, I did not always want to be a rabbi. The thought, in fact, did not even occur to me until I was nearly thirty years old, working as a professional in the environmental movement. Trying to make the world a better place had been my focus since I was a student in college. Like many activists, I worked ridiculous hours for meager pay, and — by the way — didn't often see evidence that I was changing the world much. It was only after living that crazy life for eight years that I realized that I would burn out if I did not have a clear idea of why fixing the world was so important to me.
At first, it did not really occur to me that Judaism had anything to do with the choices I had made to work for social change. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that — deep down — I believed that the world was supposed to make sense. I believed that there is a reason why we are here and that there was nothing better to do with one's life than to work to return the world to the sense that it was supposed to have from the very beginning. I didn't completely grasp it right then, but I slowly began to realize that this idea was deeply rooted in Jewish thought and my Jewish upbringing. I decided to let Judaism be the fire that would keep me motivated to continue to do the work I was doing.
Over time, Judaism became more and more important to me. I knew that I wanted to be a community organizer. I decided, though, that what I really wanted to be was an organizer of the Jewish community. In short, I discovered that I wanted to be a rabbi. It was among the happiest discoveries of my life and it is still unfolding in unanswered questions.
So, that returns me to the question that prompted this blog. What will inspire today's Jews to rediscover how Judaism can bring a sense of purpose and joy into their lives? I would like to ask you to help me figure that out. In writing this blog, I want to explore how Jewish thought, prayer, singing, studying, eating, meditating, dancing and living can revitalize a Judaism that will kindle the light of meaning in our lives. I am counting on you, by reading and responding to my thoughts, to help continue the conversation that is, itself, the answer to the question.
Thanks for joining me,