Thoughts on 2015 Tidewater Together speaker Rabbi Sharon Brous

by | May 1, 2015 | Other News

Alicia and Marc Kraus with Rabbi Sharon Brous.

Alicia and Marc Kraus with Rabbi Sharon Brous.

Rabbi Sharon Brous was the guest teacher at the annual Tidewater Together program last month.

Named one of America’s most influential rabbis by Newsweek, The Forward and The Jewish Week, she offered a prayer at President Obama’s 2012 Inauguration ceremony and delivered the invocation at last year’s White House Hanukkah party. Brous singlehandedly started the IKAR Minyan community in Los Angeles, which regularly attracts hundreds of all ages to its Shabbat services and programs.

I had heard of Rabbi Brous and her extensive lists of accomplishments before her visit to Tidewater and felt a connection to her because her husband, David Light, babysat my children as a teenager in Philadelphia in the 1980s. But I had never heard her speak in person. Truth be told, I wondered whether she was no more than the latest media rabbinic phenomenon, whose influence would come and go only to be replaced by another trendy rabbi.

I made it a point to attend two of Rabbi Brous’ five presentations, Friday night at Ohef Sholom Temple and Shabbat morning at Beth El. In the end, my only regret was that I didn’t hear all five. I came in as a curious listener; I left as a Sharon Brous fan. As young as she is (Rabbi Brous is barely over 40, and as she readily admits “looks 14”), she is as inspirational speaker about Judaism as I have heard in many years. She is warm and knowledgeable, passionate and wise, and above all, devoted to preserving Judaism by giving people the tools to apply it to the challenges of 21st century living. Her educational methods are innovative and creative. At the same time, she invokes in every presentation timeless Jewish texts from Bible to Talmud to Midrash and Hasidic teachings. As she spoke, the time passed incredibly quickly without even a glance at my watch.

What do I mean when I say that Rabbi Brous was inspirational? When I am inspired I can’t wait to get up and take action, to do something, be it give Tzedakah, help another person, or even to share the teaching I just heard. It means walking away determined to do something different or better. That is why I was delighted to be asked to share my thoughts about Rabbi Brous’ presentations with readers of Jewish News.

I am grateful to the Tidewater Together initiative and the Milton (Mickey) Kramer Scholar-in-Residence Fund for again bringing one of America’s most influential rabbinic leaders to our community. Rabbi Brous, like Rabbi Brad Artson. the previous year, shared with me how unique our community is for bringing together synagogues of different denominations and ideologies, along with other Jewish institutions, such as Beth Sholom Home and Simon Family JCC, for a weekend of Jewish learning with the “best and the brightest” of North American Jewry.

If you missed Rabbi Brous’ visit, I encourage you to “google her” or go on YouTube to read or hear some of her inspirational thoughts on Jewish life today. And be sure to come next year when Tidewater Together brings in another speaker. I have no doubt that there will be more learning and inspiration in store for us all.

by Rabbi Arthur Ruberg,
Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Beth El