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"Shalom Chaverim" - Rabbi Josh Dorsh Says Goodbye

06/16/2017 12:00:25 PM


Shalom Chaverim,

One of the first Hebrew songs that I learned was “Shalom Chaverim,” which is usually translated as “Goodbye My Friends.” But that translation isn’t necessarily accurate. As you may know, the word Shalom in Hebrew actually has three separate meanings: hello, goodbye, and peace, which could create some confusion at times. Nevertheless, upon contemplating the relationship between these three words, I realized that the confusion may not lie in how we translate Shalom, but in how we understand the different ways it can be translated.

When we greet someone with Shalom, whether we are saying hello, goodbye, or peace, we are wishing someone well. Saying Shalom Chaverim, isn’t just saying hello or goodbye, it is wishing our friends well, wishing them luck, it is saying that whether they are going or coming, wherever it is that they want to go, whatever it is that they want to do, that they do so in a way that brings peace, and blessings, into their lives and the lives of others.

Which is why on my last official day as a Rabbi at Beth El Synagogue Center, I want to say Shalom Chaverim. It has been a privilege being a Rabbi at Beth El, and being a part of this community for the past five years. As I said this past Shabbat, being a part of this community has been a tremendous blessing for my family and me. Stephanie, Nadav, and I will miss many things about New Rochelle (the weather will not be one of them!) but the most significant of which will be all of you, the people we have met, the friends we have made, and the community that we have had the privilege of being a part of.

Over the past five years, I have grown in so many ways, personally and professionally and will be forever grateful for the role that all of you have played in shaping my rabbinate and my family. And before I depart, I would like to take a moment to thank a few specific people whom have all gone above and beyond to make this experience a positive one, filled with learning and growth.

During my time at Beth El, I have had the opportunity to learn from two very different, but incredible rabbinic mentors. I came to Beth El excited to learn from Rabbi Sirner’s 40 years of pulpit rabbinic experience, and he did not disappoint. I learned so much from watching him navigate the many complexities involved in the rabbinate, and the emphasis he placed on getting to know everyone who he interacted with. His ability to recall everything about everyone is intimidating and sets the bar high, but he taught me the importance of investing in people, and making sure those whom we serve, are at the center of our rabbinate.

As sad as I was to see my friend, colleague, and mentor embrace his much deserved retirement, I feel like I struck gold once again when Beth El engaged Rabbi David Schuck to be the next Senior Rabbi. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when Rabbi Schuck came on board, but from our very first lunch at Ben’s Deli, Rabbi Schuck invested a tremendous amount of his time, his energy, and his care in my rabbinic development, pushing me to work harder, smarter, and more thoughtful than I had before.

Rabbi Schuck is the hardest working person I have ever met. His ability to be present in every moment and interaction, and the way he puts all of himself into everything he does, has pushed me to want to do the same as well. Having had the opportunity to watch him and learn from him as he navigated the transition into this community has been amazing and invaluable to me. I look forward to continuing to call on him for help and guidance throughout my life, and especially as I begin to navigate a transition of my own.

I also want to thank Hazzan Gloth, who has been an incredible clergy partner, colleague and friend. He is always willing to go above and beyond to help in any way that he can, professionally and personally. I know that I could always count him, and know that I will continue to count on him in the future. I wish him and his family the best of luck moving forward. Beth El’s tremendous loss is Needham’s gain.

I also want to thank Cantor Aqua for all of his help and support over the past five years. From the very first time we sat down together to go over our first high holiday service, we have developed a wonderful friendship and rapport, both on and off the bimah. It has been so much fun working together, and he has taught me so much during the process.

I would also like to thank Rabbi Zach Sitkin, and wish him the best of luck moving forward. He is warm, caring, and thoughtful. Having the opportunity to get to know each other and work together this year was a tremendous source of comfort for me, because I know that moving forward, Beth El is in incredibly talented rabbinic hands. He has already proven himself to be a wonderful asset to Beth El, I am confident that he will continue to help the community thrive, and become more engaged Jewishly and spiritually.

I want to thank the rest of the professional staff whom I have had the privilege of working with: Erica Leventhal, Jen Vegh, Julie Rockowitz, Ronnie Becher, Abby Wise, Bekkah Gold, and Shery Rosenstein. You have all been incredibly creative partners to collaborate with, and I will miss working with such a talented and fun team.

I also would like to thank the office and administrative staff, Debra Lomurno, Alise Liquorie, Mary DiCarlucci, Rosalie Cristofalo, Linda Newman, and Olivier Vogel. As well the building staff: Milton, Leon, Roberto, Andy, Delroy, Richie, and Val. Thank you for putting up with my unique organizational systems, and always helping me put my best foot forward.

Over the past five years, I also had the privilege of partnering with committed, caring, and enthusiastic lay leadership, led by Aaron Fleishaker and Sam Berger, the two presidents who I had the pleasure of working with. You both took me under your wing, giving me the guidance and the tools I needed to succeed. I should only be so lucky (and I think I am) to have such a dedicated and invested group of lay leadership to work with at my next congregation.

Thank you to Robyn Yairi, Abe Bartell and the Youth Services Committee, Elise Richman and the BeTzelem Elokim Committee, Rob Patchen and the search committee who brought me in. Thank you to the Levy family with whom I lived during my first year at Beth El, and to the Tuesday and Friday morning post-minyan coffee group. Thank you to so many others for all you have done to help me learn, grow, and serve.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you, as a Rabbi. Thank you for opening up your lives, your hearts, and your minds, and for letting me in. I came to Beth El five years ago, as a naive rabbinical school student having just suffered a personal tragedy. Now, I am leaving a Rabbi with a family, heading on an adventure out West to lead a congregation of my own. You have all given me so much, I hope that I was able to give you a fraction of what it was that you gave me in return.

So it is with a variety of different emotions that I extend to you a final Shalom Chaverim. For some of us, Shalom means goodbye. For others, we are saying hello to new chapters and new adventures in our lives. Nevertheless, whatever it is we mean when we say Shalom, it is my hope and prayer for all of us as we move forward, whether we are coming or going, whatever it is that we may be doing, that we do so, in peace, in a way that brings blessings into our lives and the lives of others.

Stef, Nadav, and I will come back to visit. We will be able to keep in touch over facebook. Feel free to send me an e-mail: , especially if you find yourselves in the Southern California area.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for everything you have done for me and my family. It has been a privilege and a pleasure.

Shalom Chaverim, wishing you all of the best, and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Josh Dorsch

Sun, April 5 2020 11 Nisan 5780