Neil’s Natterings: Mixed Emotions
Like most of our congregants, I am very saddened at the leaving of Rabbi Saul and his better half Phyllis. They have been very good for our congregation and for our community. They just seemed to fit in nicely, despite coming from the East Coast and a big city atmosphere.
While Rabbi is a professional who came to the Rabbinate rather late in his life (at least to start a new career, not age wise), he just seemed to be fulfilling his besharet in becoming a rabbi.
First and foremost, he has a rabbinical sense of humor. It seems to me this is now a prerequisite for all modern rabbis to be ordained. It must be part of the curriculum. And I am now also convinced that they get extra credit for puns. Which just seems soooo Jewish!
But beyond that, he seemed to differ from other rabbis we have had of late. He seems more down to earth – or, as one of our congregants expressed it, Rabbi Saul is “Joe Rabbi” – which was a good fit for Youngstown.
Finally, he has a true love of teaching. It did not matter when he had to teach a class, or how many hours he had to prepare for it – he just loved doing it. In fact, his biggest disappointment was that there were not enough kids in the Jewish community to teach.
So he turned his skills to teaching adults. He taught Mussar, the meaning behind prayers, Torah study after Shabbat services, Hebrew, Jewish law, and even Jewish science fiction and fantasy. The last is often taught these days but seldom in the manner Rabbi Saul taught it: instead of a book qualifying for study by just having a Jewish author, it also had to concentrate on a Jewish topic.
It also did not matter whether he was teaching Jews or non-Jews. In fact, any class he taught contained non-Jews in attendance. His Torah Studies for Christians was a very popular on-going course taught at Villa Maria, specifically geared toward a non-Jewish audience.
So why is this article titled “Mixed Emotions”? Because even though they enjoyed it here, they were constantly drawn home because of family considerations. Greenbelt is not an easy commute, and when you spend much of your life living somewhere, you have ties, family and otherwise, that are just hard to ignore.
Phyl would drive back and forth at least once a month to spend time with her mom or kids. Two of the kids have weddings coming. And the rabbinate of the shul that Rabbi attended since he was 19, and where he taught many kids their Bar Mitzvah portions, came open.
This was his dream job when he first enrolled in rabbinical training. He even asked that we include a clause in his last contract allowing him to be released to apply for this job if it did come open.
Thus, while I am deeply saddened that they will be leaving us, I do feel joy in that they will be able to spend more time with their family, and just hope that they know we, their adopted family, have enjoyed their time with us.
I, as I am sure does the rest of the congregation, wish them the best for the future and many pleasant memories of their time here.