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Rabbi Joel Baron


Disclaimer: Unedited AI transcript

Rabbi Joel Baron (00:25):

So when I was in high school, I really found myself socially in my youth group at our conservative synagogue in Cleveland, Ohio. In fact, I got so involved in it that I decided what I wanted to do was to go to Brandeis University. And after that I wanted to go to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and become a conservative rabbi. Problem was my parents, especially my father, wouldn't support it. Basically my father felt humiliated by the financial aid forms he would've had to fill out, and he refused to do it. So I went to a state school in Ohio, and I did get even with him by becoming a literature major which led to probably the biggest fight that we ever had. But that led to a career in publishing scientific publishing. And it was very satisfying for me.

Rabbi Joel Baron (01:35):

When I was in my early sixties, my wife and I enrolled in a class that's offered here in Boston that's called Maya. Maya is the Hebrew word for 100. And the word is used because it reflects 100 hours of adult study of Jewish topics. The a hundred hours are divided up into 4 25 hour long courses. One in biblical Judaism, one on rabbinic Judaism, one on Medieval period, and the last one on modern Judaism. And it lit me up. It made me remember how much I loved Jewish study as a young man, as a boy. And I said, this is it. I'm going to really get myself much more involved in this. But what I have to do first is really improve greatly my access to Hebrew. So I went to Hebrew College here in Boston, and I took two years of Hebrew language. It was great. I found that maybe at years old I wasn't able to acquire vocabulary quite as fast as the 20 and 30 year olds, but I had other things going for me. So in time it was fine.

Rabbi Joel Baron (03:13):

And I learned that there was a rabbinic school at Hebrew College. So I thought, well, I am in my early sixties, do I want to do this? So I went to the Dean of the Rabbinic School and asked her if I might take one course in the Rabbinic school to see how I did. And she said, of course. So I enrolled in a course that was called Introduction to Rabbinic Literature. And I did fine. To my surprise, I did quite well. And that course, and of course my, my years of experience in life also led me to be able to excel in interpreting what the rabbis were saying. And although the younger students had a leg up on me in terms of acquiring vocabulary, I had a leg up on them in understanding what it was that we were reading and what the implications were, both to Judaism and to me, just to me.

Rabbi Joel Baron (04:21):

So I enrolled in rabbinic school at 65 years old. It's a six year full-time program. It's not cheap. So that was another factor at 65. Do I wanna start laying out tuition? It's not like Harvard tuition, but it was substantial. And it also meant I had to leave my consulting practice and that meant less income. None of it would've been possible without my wife's support. It was a lot for her to give up, but she really did it quite happily and lovingly. So six years later, I was ordained. I made it, I spent about six, eight months during that time studying in Israel which was really life changing. And it wasn't just life changing for me, it was also life changing for my wife. Neither of us had ever lived in another country before, so it was a big deal for us.

Rabbi Joel Baron (05:33):

One fall, probably my fifth year a fellow student came running over to me at school the first day we were back and said, Joel, I took a course in continuing pastoral education this summer, continuing pastoral education, also known as C P e is the way in which chaplains are trained. It's gee, I think it's about 4,000 hours of classroom and clinical time. Can't remember exactly. But he said, I just finished this course. It's you, it's you go enroll. Which I did for the next, I think in the spring. I enrolled in my first course and my classmate Danny, was a hundred percent right. It was me. And that's how I've made my career. That is how I have defined my own rabbi is as a pastoral caregiver. I also do more standard rabbinic things like lead services, teach classes, but my heart is always in the work that I can do, helping people get through life's most difficult periods. And thank you.