Over the past five decades, I take great satisfaction from my experiences and accomplishments during my rabbinate. I am so grateful for:
- The health, energy, and focus to work and serve
- The small congregation rabbinate that fostered personal, quality relationships
- The variety of settings of Southeast congregations, Hillel, V.A. chaplaincy, and retirement positions, as well as counseling and private consulting work
- Countless life cycle events, sharing joys, transitions, and losses through pastoral care, ceremonies, and celebrations
- Intellectual stimulation, teaching and learning Torah, personal study, and community programs
- Connecting with so many interesting, bright, and kind Jews and non-Jews, too
- Achieving a successful balance between my professional and personal life.
Many of my key remembrances include:
- Initiating an annual brotherhood weekend pulpit exchange program: the service and my sermon at First Methodist Church was radio broadcast through northeast Alabama
- Creating an accompanying script and coordinating music for a two-hour December Chanukah concert radio broadcast [ALA]
- Planning and implementing a two-summer sabbatical to prepare programs, lectures, and sermons on “Jews in the Civil War” for the temple, pulpit exchanges, and community groups
- Initiating my congregation’s participation in the annual Athens Pulpit Exchange Day
- Delivering the invocation and benediction at the University of Georgia commencement IN 1980, and the invocation at the 1981 Homecoming game, broadcast on regional TV
- Reading at the Inaugural Service at the National Cathedral; being invited to official events of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary, including the reenactment of Menendez’ landing (the costumed actors sailed in a replica boat piloted by one of my congregants!); a major social event with Cardinal O’Malley, and the celebratory mass at the historical cathedral.
Over the course of my rabbinic career, three lessons have emerged for me.
First, the focus for my rabbinate is a “three-legged stool”-teaching, pastoral caring, and officiating at worship and life cycle occasions.
Second, my task has been to help those in their individual Jewish lives and journeys to the extent possible—to help rather than obstruct.
Third, despite inevitable frustrations and setbacks of the professional rabbinate, the priority has been to maintain my personal integrity and sense of self beyond rabbinic roles: Just weeks prior to ordination, a favorite faculty member had offered this insight and compliment: “You’re one-we never got to.”
For that, I’m still grateful.
Rabbi Fred Raskind served Congregation B’nai Abraham in Hagerstown, Maryland and Temple Bet Yam in St. Augustine, Florida. He celebrates 50 years as a Reform rabbi.
We look forward to celebrating 50-year rabbis when we come together at CCAR Convention 2022 in San Diego, March 27-30, 2022. CCAR rabbis can register here.