The Shabbat service was held in the sanctuary last Friday in order to accommodate the expected crowd of Temple Israel members eager to see their new rabbi in action. During services last week, Rabbi Brown asked questions of the congregants, so that he might get to know them and the history of Temple Israel better. This week, it was Rabbi Brown’s turn to do the talking as he explained “How a racist Jew, a Methodist thief and a Catholic aristocrat led [him] to Temple Israel.”
The evening was rather low key and slightly informal, as Cantor Shermet and Rabbi Brown sat for most of the service on stools in front of the bima. There was a nice feeling of communion among the congregants. It seemed like everyone wanted Rabbi Brown to feel comfortable and welcome.
Adding to the cozy atmosphere was a quartet of musicians–Jon Bleicher, Julie Sandene, Tom Friedman and Anna Eirinberg–who accompanied Cantor Shermet during the prayers.
Rabbi Brown spoke not of his physical journey to Omaha, but his spiritual one. He mentioned three specific examples from his life that led him to become the man he is, the rabbi he is, and what he hopes to bring to Temple Israel from those experiences.
The first example he mentioned resonated with me, personally, because it was about the city of Boston, which is where I attended graduate school. When Rabbi Brown was in high school and living in Atlanta, he told his parents he wanted to visit Boston for a week, alone. And he did.
Rabbi Brown described riding on the T (Boston’s version of a subway system), surrounded by unfamiliar faces and languages, and how he automatically, almost instinctively and reflexively, pulled his bag closer to his body.
Everyone has probably had a similar moment. I know I have, in Los Angeles, in New York City. I rode that same train in Boston that Rabbi Brown mentioned, and had similar thoughts about the strangers around me. And it makes you think, when you experience a moment like that. It makes you question your preconceived notions of the world around you and your place in it.
I would urge everyone to watch the clip* below, of Rabbi Brown speaking of his journey to Omaha and those he met on the way. If you haven’t met him yet, I think this video is a good introduction to Rabbi Brown and to what he’ll be bringing to Temple Israel in the months and years to come.
*Please note that at the 7:15 mark, the audio goes dead for approximately 45 seconds, and at the 14:25 mark, the video freezes, but the audio works. We apologize for the technical difficulties.