Today is April 22, 2019 -
My Background – Why I Became a Rabbi – My Rabbinic Vision
As a young man, I came to realize that what gave me the most satisfaction and meaning, in both my personal and professional life, was service to and being in relationship with God and my fellow human beings. As a result, upon graduating from Georgetown Law School, I moved to Montgomery, Alabama, first to work as an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, and then to start the state’s first racially integrated law firm, practicing constitutional and civil rights law for approximately 2 decades.
While spending a sabbatical year in Israel, I was asked and agreed to serve as the City Attorney for Montgomery, a position that afforded me the opportunity to gain leadership skills and to work closely with people who held a variety of different views and perspectives. Before coming to CBI, I served as the rabbi at a synagogue in the State of Virginia and then completed a chaplaincy residency program at Yale-New Haven Hospital, working on the pediatric and adult hematology/oncology floors.
I am often asked, “Why did you decide to leave the practice of law, a profession you obviously enjoyed and found meaningful, to become a congregational rabbi?” While a number of different factors entered into my decision, my response is a simple but profound one – the rabbinate for me is a “calling,” grounded in service to God and community. The verse from our sacred texts that has most inspired me and shaped my rabbinate are the words of the great first-century rabbi, Hillel:
May we be like disciples of Aaron the Kohen, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving our fellow creatures and drawing them near to the Torah
[“Torah” being an appreciation and awareness of all that it takes to be in a covenantal relationship with God.]
My rabbinic vision is strongly influenced by the same things that connected me to God and community and brought me joy and meaning as a congregant. My vision starts with the existence of a sacred partnership between the lay leadership and myself, working together to establish a safe, caring, and vibrant kehilah kedoshah (holy community), one that places the well-being and interest of the community over that of the individual. As we are taught in Pirkei Avot, such a holy community rests upon 3 basic pillars:
I invite you to join us for one of our Friday night Shabbat Chai musical services or for a Thursday evening or Sunday morning minyan (followed by a delicious breakfast), or to participate on our CBI Cares or Social Action committee. I look forward to meeting you and talking with you about whatever your needs may be or whatever is on your mind.
Shalom Aleichem! Peace Be With Your Loved Ones and You!
Rabbi Howard Mandell