Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser lives and works in southern Florida’s Treasure Coast and serves as the rabbi of Temple Beit HaYam in Stuart, FL. He was ordained in 2000 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (the seminary of Judaism’s Reform Movement). In addition to blogging for his own blog, Reb Jeff, he’s also one of the Reform “Ask the Rabbi” rabbis on About.com.
As a part of our “Many Voices” Q&A series, we had the fortunate opportunity to ask Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser of the blog Reb Jeff a few questions:
Progress Planet: What do you do for a living? (if, that is, you’re not making your living from blogging!)
Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser: I am a congregational rabbi. I serve the Jewish community of Martin County, Florida, as the rabbi of Temple Beit HaYam in Stuart.
PP: How long have you been blogging?
RJG: I started blogging in February of 2011.
PP: Why did you start blogging? Why do you continue to do it?
RJG:I think my job, primarily, is to be a teacher of Torah. I work to get other people to love Torah as much as I do and to inspire them to build a life around the values of Torah. Blogging, to me, is like a great big megaphone that allows me to do my job better. It allows me to reach further and to more people than I could ever do just by talking to folks in my little synagogue.
Over the time I’ve been doing it, the blog also has become a spiritual practice for me. It forces me, two or three times a week, to do a little bit of studying, a little bit of thinking and a little bit of putting my thoughts into words. That helps me — little by little — to grow as a person and to clarify my intentions in the world.
Also, I really like writing. I think I’m pretty good at it. Blogging is a way of getting regular exercise at writing and allows me to improve my skills.
PP: Why did you choose the name of your blog?
RJG: First and foremost, the URL was available.
Secondly, I like the old Yiddish title of “Reb.” It basically translates into English as “Mister,” but it conveys a little bit more. It says, “a person who lives to be a good person.” That is as grand a title as I ever aspire to claim. Also, I like the odd juxtaposition of the Yiddish “Reb” with my distinctly Anglo-Saxon name of “Jeff.”
PP: What are your personal goals for your blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?
RJG: My goal is to reach folks, to inspire them to hope for more, to make them smile, to help them make the connection between Torah and living a joyful life, and to get them to think about making their synagogues more joyful places. I hope to change the world (one blog reader at a time).
PP: What is one of the greatest things that’s happened to you as a result of being a blogger?
RJG: I get a lot of people to come up to me and say, “Oh, I really like what you wrote on your blog this week. That really made me feel good.” To me, that’s just priceless.
PP: What are some other blogs/websites you love to read for general interest and/or inspiration?
RJG: I’m going to be very honest here. I don’t read a lot of blogs. Most of the inspiration for my blog posts comes from reading I do from old media (what used to be called “books”). I read my friend Rachel Barenblat’s Velveteen Rabbi blog pretty regularly. But that doesn’t really count, since I knew Rachel in “real life” and loved everything she said long before I read her blog.
I’m a political junkie and a baseball nut, so I read blogs about those topics, even though the thoughts from them don’t make it into my blog. (Sometimes the writing style does, though. I always thought the best writing in the newspapers is on the sports pages).
PP: In your opinion, what stands in the way of peace in the world?
RJG: I don’t have a romantic or preachy answer to that question. There is a lot that stands in the way. We are far away from what the world could and should be.
A lot of it is politics. Power is distributed in a way that works against the interests of peace and toward the interests of conflict. Some of it is cultural. Way too many people in this world have been taught to distrust others and to resolve conflicts with violence. Some part of it, I suppose, is also spiritual. People cannot create peace with others until they create peace within themselves.
The bottom line for me — realist that I am — is that it’s mostly about power.