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A Brief Autobiography

I was born and grew up in Miami, Florida. I attended elementary, junior high and high school there, graduating from Coral Gables Senior High. My family was actively involved in Temple Judea, which my grandfather, Charles Adler, helped found. I became a Bar Mitzvah at Temple Judea, having attended since kindergarten.

Throughout junior high and high school, I was actively involved in the Temple’s National Federation of Temple Youth Program (NFTY), as well as the United Synagogue Youth movement (USY) at Temple Zion, and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) which met at Beth David. My B’nai B’rith Chapter was Shield of David AZA. I was a member from the 9th-12th grades and served in every office, including president. I was also the heartthrob of the girls’ B’nai B’rith group, Taelon. After high school, I served in the United States Coast Guard.

Around this time, I developed a keen interest in Asian religion, especially Buddhism. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, noted for its outstanding program in Asian Studies. I studied, among other things, classical Chinese in order to read Buddhist texts in the original...and modern Japanese, in order to study the commentaries. Thoroughly enjoined it!

While in Madison, I helped found “The Chavurah” which was a cooperative Jewish living center where we experimented with various forms of Shabbat observance, studied together, cooked together and explored with intensity and gusto the great diversity of our wonderful tradition. Martin Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim was one of my very favorite books at the time - and it remains so today.

In the 1970’s, I met Rabbi Israel Shmotkin, a Lubavitcher rabbi from Milwaukee, who frequently came into Madison. We became close and I often spent Shabbat and holidays with his family. As a result of my contact with him and increasing interest in Hasidism, I attended the Lubavitch Yeshiva in Morristown, New Jersey and then the Yeshiva Gedola on Miami Beach. I cut my long hair, let my beard grow long, wore peyes (side-locks) and dressed in black. I was a Hasid.

As my path continued to evolve and I sought to integrate the different spiritual influences in my life, I became interested in the ideas and teachings of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan. Kaplan taught for many years at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York (for training Conservative rabbis) and while it was not his intention to start a new movement in Jewish life, his disciples felt that his outlook and beliefs were so important and so unique that they did warrant their own separate vehicle. Through their efforts, Reconstructionism became the fourth Jewish movement and the Reconstructionist Rabbincal College (RRC) became established as an independent rabbinical school.

I attended the RRC from 1978-1983. I was ordained in June, 1983. During those years, I immensely enjoyed getting to know and studying with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi who is known to many as the grandfather of the Jewish Renewal Movement. Zalman taught at both the RRC and at Temple University where I earned my graduate degree in Comparative World Religions.

While serving my first congregation, I met my future wife, Donna Greenfield. I was serving the conservative congregation in Niagara Falls. She was a rabbinical student on leave from Hebrew Union College, serving the reform congregation in Niagara Falls. There were two Jewish congregations in Niagara Falls and, at that time, the religious schools met jointly. We, of course, wanted Donna to finish her rabbinical studies at HUC, and since Beth Israel in Hamilton, Ohio needed a rabbi and I was offered the position - we moved to Hamilton in 1984. I served as rabbi of Beth Israel from 1984-1997.

In August of 1998, I became the first rabbi of the first and only Reconstructionist congregation in Cincinnati and Southwestern Ohio - Congregation B’nai Tikvah. We shall never forget the tremendous kindness extended to our newly formed congregation by the good people of St. Anne Episcopal Church, in West Chester, who allowed us to meet for nine years at their church, rent free. There we were able to hold all of our services and activities, and there we were able to begin to introduce the teachings, practices and ideas of a new Jewish movement to the community...and we made some good friends along the way.

It was with great joy and satisfaction, and after much hard work and commitment on the part of B’nai Tikvahites that, in August of 2008, we were able to celebrate our tenth anniversary and dedicate our own synagogue on Lake Chetac Drive in Mason/Deerfield Township.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for so long now. But, I was most pleasantly reminded of just how long it’s been when I was awarded, in June 2008, by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, the Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree for 25 years of service as a rabbi. In 2021, with gratitude and humility, I look forward to continued opportunities to serve, with faithfulness and loyalty, as I have tried to do throughout my rabbinate.

That’s a little piece of my story.

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