Frequently, congregants apologize to me for making appointments. “I know you are busy...” they begin. I always try to reassure them that THEY are what I am busy with. It is mostly an honor to share a few moments to discuss a personal matter, a Jewish issue, shul business or some other part of life with members – and even non-members.
But there are times when I am unavailable, and it is reasonable that you know where my time goes. The synagogue by-laws encourage the rabbi to be involved in the community as long as such activity does not interfere unreasonably with rabbinic duties at home. And there are three places that regularly receive my “community time.”
The first and most frequent is the Faith and Politics Institute. Founded ten years ago, its mission is to provide Members of Congress with a resource for exploring the intersection of private faith and public service. To that end, it sponsors lectures and conversations with prominent public figures and a semi-annual pilgrimage to Alabama to retrace the steps of civil rights activists. It is bi-partisan, its honorary co-chairs being Amo Houghton (R-NY) and John Lewis (D-GA). Though I sit on the board, most of my service is through the best thing that FPI does: I co-lead a reflection group for a few Representatives and others Wednesday mornings. I have developed a deep appreciation and compassion for those who have dedicated their lives to public service.
I am also a vice-president of The Interfaith Alliance. TIA is a true coalition of faith communities devoted to a domestic agenda of civility in public discourse, protection of human rights and an appropriate role for religion as an influence on, but not an arbiter of, public policy. In my capacity I am often called upon to represent TIA at press conferences and other public gatherings.
Finally, I have been the President of the Alexandria Interfaith Association. This local group of (mostly) clergy has dedicated itself this year to investigating the issue of affordable housing in our city and advocating for reforms in policy. (It has been a confusing and frustrating process to this point.) My term should extend for another year. However, I will be resigning shortly from office because I feel strongly that I must take a higher profile in speaking out for Israel in the religious community. Fortunately, others are willing to lead the good fight for affordable housing.
I am certain you noticed that these three organizations are interfaith. I have my involvement in Jewish organizations and civic groups as well, but there is something compelling to me about exploring diverse paths to a common destination. I get the sense that the respect and appreciation I have developed for others has been reciprocated, which is a good thing.
My first commitments are always at home, and I am always ready to make the time for your needs. Mostly, that’s what I do all day.