A lot has happened in my half a century in the rabbinate—marriage, children, and grandchildren, who are at the stabilizing center of my life in a world in constant change. I believe that the rabbinate changed with the ordination of Rabbi Sally Priesand, and my rabbinate changed as I worked with women colleagues who became close family friends. As driven as I was, they didn’t teach me to work less; they taught me to work better.
I served in two continents and in three languages! I survived persecution and death threats as well as a near-death experience; each of these taught me something new about how to be in the world, in my work, with my family, and communities. I loved the teaching, engaging with good thinkers—young and old—watching people learn and ask deep question, taking lessons I taught them further than I could or would.
My greatest joy was whenever a young woman or man would talk to me about exploring the rabbinate for themselves. Along the years, I can claim at least some credit for sending 25 to 30 students to HUC-JIR, JTS, AJU, and even one to a seriously Orthodox yeshivah in Jerusalem. Each of them a link to the future. As some of them already think of retirement, I helped to start, and now teach at a Reform rabbinical training institute for the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world.
They say that one shebs naches fun kindern, and I believe one does from one’s students as well. I learned from all of them.
It has been and continues to be one hell of a ride!
Rabbi Roberto Graetz retired as Rabbi Emeritus from Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, California in 2016. He is celebrating 50 years in the rabbinate.
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.