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Rabbi Joshua Rose likes ‘wild, magnificent’ Boulder

Rabbi Joshua RoseRabbi Joshua Rose was born in Portland, Oregon. He received a degree in European and American history at Occidental College in Los Angeles and moved to Washington, DC, to  work  in public policy with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Rose received a masters in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School. He taught high school before going to HUC-JIR, where he was ordained in 2007.

That summer, Rose came to Har Hashem in Boulder. He has been the senior rabbi for a year.

Rose and his wife Channah have three sons, Eliav, Akiva and newborn Rafael.

COMING from a long line of rabbis, Rabbi Joshua Rose could not ignore what he describes as a gravitational force that attracted him into to the life of a Jewish leader.

Rose hopes to pass on Judaism’s beauty to his congregants and make the ancient lessons of the Torah approachable in the modern world.

Rabbi Rose engages younger and older congregants alike. Although inspiring unaffiliated Jews can be difficult, Rose uses his own connection to the Torah’s text to keep him motivated.

Since switching positions with Rabbi Deborah Bronstein and becoming the senior rabbi at Har Shalom, Rose and Bronstein have have made the transition smooth.

Q: What makes you stand out at Har Hashem?

A: We have a lot of amazing energy here that has transformed into new projects and members. Our focus is to develop a sense of community within the community that is more profound.

Rabbi Bronstein continues to lead us in incredible tikkun olam efforts—we just raised about $18,000 for mosquito nets to fight malaria through the NETS program.

We have developed rich new music with Ohr Zimra, a group of musicians and prayer leaders.

Among the classes, I teach a 30-person musar class that has attracted a lot of new faces.

We are blessed with a vibrant community that is dedicated to learning and prayer and discovering what it means to be Jewish in a meaningful and powerful way in the 21st century.

We are unique because of our diversity. There are people who grew up as Orthodox Jews, Reform and Conservative Jews and many who didn’t grow up as Jews. Some converted and some didn’t — a significant part of our community is interfaith and we welcome and celebrate them. We have families in the gay and lesbian community.

Q: Why choose the life of a rabbi?

A: My life, which had drifted away from Jewish life, slowly became centered on the Jewish people and Torah and it became clear that Torah would be the lens through which I understood my people and my world.

My journey created a passion and love for Judaism; I felt as though I had something to offer Jews who wanted to find a way back into Judaism. I don’t know if it was destiny or a plan, but it was undeniable.

Q: Why Boulder?

A: There was no other place where head, heart and soul all came together like they do at Har Hashem. The values, commitment to matching tradition to modernity and making Jewish values real in this world, along with the passion and diversity of the congregation, appealed to my wife and me.

The interaction between the rabbis in Boulder through the rabbinic council erases any restraining denominational box and I knew I liked that and needed that connection and outreach.

Also, its magnificence is obvious. Boulder is just beautiful.

Q: Has the presence of JuBus, Jewish Buddhists, had an impact on your community?

A: There are JuBus in my congregation as there are in every Boulder congregation.

I have people who mediate and study Torah. I want people to develop a deep practice in Jewish tradition and if drawing on insights from other traditions helps draw them in, then that is brilliant.

There are many people beginning to explore the connection between meditation as a Jewish practice. Though it hasn’t always been called meditation per se, it’s clear from ancient, medieval and modern literature that there are Jewish practices related to mediation.

We are planning on offering a course in Jewish mediation this year.

Q: How has the transition gone in becoming senior rabbi and switching with Rabbi Bronstein?

A: What made it work is that Rabbi Bronstein and I have a great friendship and a respect for the other.

She is able to pursue her passion for tikkun olam. I started developing deeper connections with the congregation and brought energy through my own passions that I combined with hers.

The transition has worked in a powerful way to bring our community together and allow different people to connect to Judaism with new open doors.

Q: What challenges are brought to you as a leader in the liberal community in Boulder?

A: Boulder is Boulder — a wild and magnificent city. Boulder has developed an expressive community because people come seeking new ways and patterns of living, not interested in the traditional ways.

There is a high rate of unaffiliated Jews here and people don’t dive into Judaism just because they are told to. They are looking for relevance, excitement and meaning and that is our challenge here.

Every Jewish professional here is very aware of that and confronts these challenges. There is amazing, groundbreaking work being done to explore the best ways to make Judaism vibrant here.

There is a lot of cooperation between synagogues. Rabbi Goldfeder and I do a class together where we speak about issues that separate us and bring us together as Jews.

Q: How has the Reform movement changed during your rabbinate?

A: A deep abiding commitment to tikkun olam has amplified.

One new change is the growing interest in Jewish ritual and the expansion of the vocabulary of mitzvot and practice, which reflects the way Reform Jews live. Many more keep kosher, the prayerbook has changed.

There is a significant percentage of people in Jewish American life who are interfaith couples moving forward in the Reform Jewish movement.

Q: What do you want for your congregants?

A: I want them to develop in their own unique ways on their own path; a powerful and profound connection to Judaism as a way of being, living and relating to others and seeing the world.

I want my congregation to find an intense joy and happiness from Jewish life and learning as a source of constant insight, reflection and peace.

Q: What keeps you inspired?

A: A passion with mysterious roots for understanding what it means to be Jewish today and trying to understand ways to bring authentic tradition into contemporary life.

Unraveling that mystery constantly drives me and gives me immense joy. My work is fun — I love teaching, hanging with the kids, turning people on to the life I love, and the music.

Q: What is your favorite mitzvah?

A: The Birkat,  because it involves a great sense of pleasure in being with others, while singing and bringing yourself to a place of gratitude without taking anything for granted.

Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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