Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ask the Goldberg

As we contemplate what we are most thankful for in this world, I would like to take a moment and give thanks for David Goldberg. The Goldberg is a fellow in the year program, and on leave from rabbinical school at JTS. While he is clearly serious about Judaism, it is his openness to life, his joke telling "skills," and to sharing his peanut butter and honey sandwiches, that complete the awesomeness that is The Goldberg.

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. This is…Ask the Goldberg.

1. Why do you think mustaches are so awesome?

I grew up with men with facial hair, so I’m partial towards it. What can I say? Mustaches are funky and unique.

2. What is the most random class you’ve taken as an undergraduate?

The first was a class called “Frontiers of Modern Science. We had to take a science, and I took a lot of science in high school, but I still didn’t want a sciency-science class. So I took a class on the history and philosophy of science. It was a great class.

The second was something about the history of the Balkans and the Balkan region. It was fascinating to study the religious, social, and cultural integration there. There was much more local identification, and that sense of unity led to stereotyping of other localities. Jews there would often take on the local and religious customs, and it was the same with other religions. But that led to a sense of Serbian identity vs. Turkish. The class raised all kind of questions about what the definition of an ethnic group is.

For a course I would have taken, if I could have, it would have been a course on the American presidency. I’m interested because of The West Wing, but it’s a course at Columbia that I sat in on with a friend. The class was about Reagan, and it was fascinating.

3. What kind of rabbi do you want to be?

I don’t know. I’m open to different ideas. Whatever I do, I want to make sure I have an open and welcoming home to bring in Jews from all backgrounds to love Jewish living and to learn.

4. What’s the funniest clean joke you know?

What is the difference between Moshe Rabbeinu and the Lubuvicher Rebbe ?

At least we know where Moshe died.

[Long silence. I try to laugh politely because I don’t get it.]

No, wait—we don’t know where Moshe is buried, but we know where he’s buried. The rebbe, we know that he’s dead, but we’re not so sure where he’s buried.

[I thought we know where he’s buried]

OH! No, Moshe Rabbeinu, we know he’s dead, but we’re not sure where he’s buried. The rebbe, we know where he’s buried, but we’re not so sure he’s dead. Right.

5. What is your favorite/least favorite part of the liturgy?

I think one of my favorite parts of the liturgy is doing the festival repetition of the amidah; I just find the nusach to be really fun.

I think the part of the liturgy that I often struggle with is the day-to-day liturgy. Though a lot of the time it can be very, very meaningful, a lot of the time it can be mundane and difficult to do every day…But I think that also is why I love the festival liturgies. Because when you do that chazarat hashatz, it’s really nice.

6. Being Canadian in America—discuss.

Truly it’s been awhile now; I already had two years in New York before this, and Rebecca and I started dating when we were 17. And I’ve been around Americans a lot starting at age 17or 16. So it’s not really anything new…Americans are pretty cool most of the time. Except when they’re annoying with their Canadian jokes. The sad thing is that I lost a lot of my Canadian accent where people, more often than not don’t notice when I say. Sometimes they notice and say “why do you say house so Canadianly?” but most of the time people don’t notice, so it’s kind of sad. And I think I may have even taken on some Chicago accent.

7. Who is your favorite character from the Talmud?

I don’t know if I have a favorite character necessarily, but I really do like As a Driven Leaf as a book…I think that really the story Milton Steinberg wrote about [R’ Elisha ben Avuya’s] life is really cool.

8. If I ran Hadar for the day, I would…

I would have open learning time all day with all of the faculty here to help people just maximize chevruta study.

9. If you weren’t a rabbinical student, what would you be?

Probably a teacher.

[Of what?]

I don’t know. If I couldn’t be a teacher of Jewish studies, probably, I don’t know, maybe history or something. Something in the humanities in high school or something like that.

10. Who or what has been a defining figure or moment in your life?

I think a defining figure, if I could give a broad answer, would be my family. Defining figures. Specifically, in terms of my rabbinic path, my grandfather, my sabba, plays a huge role in defining what I do and who I am. And also my savta. And my parents, the house I grew up in. Rebecca, who pushes me now to a lot of the things that I think about. She challenges me and we talk out a lot of issues—like Jewish issues that I’ve been thinking about. So, my family.

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