Tuesday, February 7, 2023 -
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Spoken like a true, new father, who is also a rabbi…

If you run into Har Hashem’s newest rabbi, Josh Rose, and he looks a little tired, chances are he is. But it’s not his job as a rabbi that’s keeping him up at night. It’s the newest addition to his family: three-month-old son Eliav.

“Paternity leave was amazing,” he says of the six weeks he spent at home. “I think part of me thought it was going to be so great, like a vacation of sorts. I’ll get to hang out with Eliav and get to study Talmud and then I’ll hang out with Eliav again. It was exhausting. Anyone who goes into a paternity leave or a maternity leave thinking they’re having a little vacation is mistaken.”

And yet, he says, it was a beautiful, intense and joyous time in his life. Having expectations and an open mind paired with an ability to adapt to change have not always come naturally to Rabbi Rose.

During rabbinical school, he experienced a Jewish awakening. “It was such a rush of joy and excitement to read through the Talmud and find fascinating and beautiful discussions that mattered passionately to me. It was an intoxicating experience, — and it sharpened his view of Judaism.

“I had a sense that my way was the right way and that Reform Judaism could be so ritually exciting and so textually rich, that this is the way Reform Judaism needed to be lived. I was sort of bull-headed about it,” he adds with laughter and hindsight. I would say my cumulative experience showed me that there is no individual rabbi or Jew who has insight into how Jewish life should be lived. Well,” he amends himself, “we have insight, but one needs to be respectful and open to learning from other people’s Jewish experience.”

Josh Rose grew up in Portland, Ore., the son of a Reform rabbi, the youngest of four children, and the only boy. His three older sisters negotiated the secular and religious paths so that Josh didn’t have to.

“There was a lot of tsuris trying to make my sisters stay home on Friday nights,” he recalls, “but by the time my parents got to me, there was a compromise worked out. I had more freedom than my sisters.”

As a result, Rabbi Rose doesn’t feel like he grew up in a bubble of religiosity. “My sisters coddled me. It was nice, beautiful. It’s probably my fate to be reincarnated as an oldest sister in a family of four with a baby brother,” he jokes and opens the door for the next question: Does he believe in reincarnation?

“No. No I don’t.”

But some Jews in Boulder do. So how does he approach congregants who have a faith that is in direct conflict with his own beliefs?

“I think any time you are counseling or teaching there’s a challenge to respect other people’s experiences and particularly their experiences as Jews.
“In a place like Boulder when somebody has an experience that they’re trying to fold into their Judaism, I think that’s valuable. The challenge is not how do I convince them they are wrong, but how do we find a way to address their experience through a Jewish lens.”

Rabbi Rose’s Jewish lens, like many Generation X-ers, developed in an unorthodox way. Sure, he was an “RK” — a rabbi’s kid — but didn’t immediately follow in dad’s footsteps.

He worked for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism as a liaison to congregations across the country. Then he gave that up and went back to school for a master’s from the Harvard Divinity School. With that, he became a high school history teacher at the private, Oregon Episcopal school. And that’s where he decided to become a rabbi.

Why the winding path?

“I just hadn’t found a Jewish voice that really resonated and I think that’s true for a lot of Jews in my generation. It just didn’t feel like the rabbinate was a natural path to me. My soul wasn’t screaming out to do that. Eventually it was, but not when I was younger.”

Part of his training for the rabbinate included an internship, which he completed with his father. He describes the experience as emotionally enriching, professionally educational and religiously enlightening.

Josh Rose and his dad have “massively different” ritual lives and ideas of how Judaism can be shaped to complement cultural changes. Yet, he credits his father with teaching him that being a rabbi can only be done with openness, respect and appreciation for others, “because, for example, as a Reform Jew who keeps kosher, if I walked around thinking that everyone needs to keep kosher, I’m going to be obnoxious, I’m going to be gravely disappointed, and I’m not going to have influence on Jewish lives that I might have had otherwise.”

Rabbi Rose, who was ordained in May, 2007, arrived in Boulder last July for the first gig of his third career.

“It’s a beautiful city. It’s sophisticated but also small,” he says, marveling at the mountain view from every drive through town. He is an active hiker and an avid reader, but says he and his wife, Channah, have had to put their bikes in storage until Eliav is a little older.

As for the baby’s impact, Rabbi Rose says he has a much better understanding of what goes on in people’s lives and an appreciation for a broader segment of the congregation than he had before. “For example, we advertise an event at the synagogue and we hope for a certain number of people to attend, but we don’t see that many because they’re at home with their families or have been up all night taking care of their baby.

“I understand how exhausting that is and that it’s not always easy for people to make a choice to come to the synagogue even though they may want to.”
Spoken like a new father . . . who also happens to be a rabbi.

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