The Jewish Theological Seminary: What made you decide to attend The Rabbinical School of JTS?
Adam Baldachin: After studying at JTS in List College, I was compelled to continue learning Torah here. The academic environment challenged me to think critically about the texts I learned: JTS gave me the opportunity to explore how the texts affected me personally as well as how they were useful for teaching in my pulpit. Time and time again, I found that the Torah I was learning in classes was homer ledrush, material useful for teaching, inspiring me to dig deeper into what I was learning in order to engage those around me in Torah study. Additionally, I had forged valuable relationships with a number of mentors at JTS, and was eager to continue learning in their classrooms.
JTS: What do you enjoy most about studying at JTS?
AB: I enjoy the balance between learning Torah at JTS and learning bashetach (in the field) in various institutions of Jewish life outside of JTS. There is an expectation among the students and faculty of rigorous Talmud Torah in the classroom, which is then taken out of the building and into the world. The learning at JTS is enhanced by its focus on the historical setting of the texts and the theological assumptions of their authors. This method of study allows us to connect personally with the material and utilize it as a part of our identity formation as rabbis. In addition, there is a feeling of gravitas connected with Torah lishmah, and the many years of Torah study that have taken place in the very classrooms in which we sit.
JTS: Tell us about your favorite class.
AB: In Dr. Walter Herzberg's Parshanut classes, I explored the wisdom of hundreds of years of rabbinic commentaries from all over the world. Each week we focused on verses from the weekly Torah portion and other favorite passages of his throughout the Torah. I loved preparing for class, thinking deeply about Dr. Herzberg's difficult (but ultimately answerable) questions connected to the parashah, and feeling spiritually moved as I gained new insights into familiar stories and characters. I appreciated his deep love for the studying we did together and became motivated to learn in a similar style on my own and while teaching students. Additionally, Dr. Herzberg often invited students and their study partners to his office to learn Torah with him. I spent many hours there, pouring over commentaries. Even though he had studied the texts with hundreds of students, he showed genuine interest in my insights and encouraged me to be creative. I hope to continue to learn from and with him in the years to come.
JTS: What do you enjoy most about being part of our community?
AB: JTS is a place for people to join together-not just for learning Torah and vocational training, but also to feel the presence of a warm and vibrant community. I feel this often when greeting the guards when I enter the building, sitting with other students and professors in the dining hall, or even reading through my email. Additionally, I feel a deep sense of connection to community during important life events. We comfort each other after experiencing losses, and celebrate weddings, covenantal ceremonies, and graduations together. Most recently I have felt the warmth of the JTS community by receiving congratulatory emails and many offers of support from many people upon hearing the news of my daughter's recent birth. It has been greatly appreciated.
JTS: What person at JTS has had the greatest impact on you so far?
AB: While there are many people at JTS who have had a great impact on me, Rabbi Mychal Springer, my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) supervisor this past summer, had the greatest of all. Through her mentorship, leadership, and friendship, she provided a warm presence and compassionate ear to me during a very inspiring and challenging summer of learning at JTS while I interned at the Nazi Victim Services and offered pastoral care to Holocaust survivors. Rabbi Springer facilitated our CPE sessions with great wisdom and kindness. I feel very fortunate to have learned with her, and am blessed to have her as a role model and rabbi in my life.
JTS: What are your professional goals?
AB: I look forward to leading a congregation as a pulpit rabbi upon graduating in May 2013, and for many years in the future. I look forward to working with a community through study, prayer, ritual, and social justice. I am eager to facilitate life cycle events for congregants and their families, and to work with focus groups to create fun, meaningful, and inspiring programs for congregants of all ages. Additionally, I hope to maintain a strong relationship with the faculty at JTS and my colleagues as I continue to learn from and with them. I also hope to offer my mentorship and guidance to JTS students in the future.
JTS: Name your favorite place on campus.
AB: Outside of the Wingate Auditorium on the fifth floor of The Library, there are couches surrounding a low, flat table. I have spent countless hours there studying Talmud and looking out of the adjacent large, beautiful window. From there I can see the courtyard and the stained glass windows of the Women's League Seminary Synagogue. It is a very quiet hallway, and a well-kept secret (at least until this posting).
JTS: Have you gone to Israel as part of your JTS training? What was that experience like?
AB: I spent the fall semester of my junior year in List College at the Hebrew University, and my second year in The Rabbinical School in Israel at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary. Both were incredible experiences. During my year there in The Rabbinical School, I had the privilege of interning with Rabbi Mauricio Balter in Kiryat Byalik and in Beersheba. I learned a tremendous amount from him about the rabbinate in general, as well as about the Masorti Movement in Israel-but most importantly, I learned how to make a really tasty asado (Argentinean steak) for Yom Ha'atzma'ut.
JTS: How do you spend your free time?
AB: I love spending time with my wife of six years, Maital; my two-year-old son, Shalev; and my newborn daughter, Navit.
JTS: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
AB: After I graduated from List College, I spent a year living and working in Uganda with my wife. Through American Jewish World Service, I volunteered at a nongovernmental organization for three months, and then worked with the Abayudaya, a Jewish community of Ugandan converts to Judaism, through a fellowship from the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. I taught Torah and offered computer training. It was a wonderful experience, and I look forward to returning someday.