Temple Micah Welcomes New Intern, Josh Beraha
Rabbinic student Josh Beraha wants to teach Judaism to a new generation. "I want to make a Judaism that is not the Judaism of my parents."
Josh will begin a year-long association with Temple Micah in June as the latest Tisch Fellow from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
He will spend the summer before his final year in seminary at Micah , polishing his professional skills. Like the rabbinic interns who have served at Micah during the previous three summers, Josh will preside at some Sabbath services and help select the daily readings that comprise the Elul Project, sent to all members during the month before Rosh Hashanah. The assignment is part of the Bonnie and Daniel Tisch Fellows Program, through which five students are selected from each seminary class to participate in special programs studying the sociology of religion in the US.
The goals of the project are to encourage student rabbis to profit from approaches that are successful in other denominations and to help each participant examine his or her own spirituality and translate it into pulpit leadership.
In a new extension of the relationship, Josh will be making semi-monthly visits to Micah during the following nine months, teaching in Machon Micah, leading some services, and otherwise providing a helping hand.
A native of Rhode Island, Josh had a strong Jewish upbringing. He had a joint major in history and Hebrew Literature at the University of Wisconsin. He then moved to New York City, where he got a master's degree in elementary education and, for five years, taught in a special needs school on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Judaism wasn't an active part of his existence at that point, but "it was something that was lying there dormant," he said. Over a few years, he came to realize that the religion had an important role to play in his life, but only when looked at in a new way. "I want to make a Judaism that is not the Judaism of my parents," he explained.
In 2007 he began teaching Hebrew part-time at the Jewish Community Project Downtown. The program director there, and his teaching assistant, was Sarah Abrams; three years later, at the Lansdowne Resort outside Leesburg, Va., they married. She and their son, Raphael Moses, born on April 23, will spend the summer in D.C. with Josh.
Slowly, Josh was moving toward the rabbinate. "I don't think God called me to do this work, but a lot of different forces were coming together," he explained. Judaism "needs to be taught to a new generation, and I can help. The reason I went into the rabbinate is that Judaism excites me."
He thinks that many congregations went astray in emphasizing the translation of Judaic teaching into political activism and "that's not what people are looking for. I think right now the Jewish world needs people who will engage people in Judaism, in Torah."
This spring Josh took part in a HUC-JIR program that brings public school eighth graders from Harrington Park, New Jersey, into Manhattan to help at the Monday evening sit-down dinner the school provides for those in need.
Trying to prepare the young teens for their role as greeters, he insisted: "Every person has within them some kind of godliness. Every single one of you and every single person to walk through the door."
[By Dan Moskowitz; from May-June-July 2012 Vine]