BCC Gets to Know Rabbi Alyson Solomon
Shalom Beth Chayim Chadashim,
I’m so thrilled to be with you as your Interim Senior Rabbi. Thank you for the warm welcome. Seeing that I’ll be with you for a year, how about we jump right in and get to know each other? Questions you may have include:
Tell us about your Jewish journey.
I’m a third-generation Portlander, from Oregon; our family belonged to a large Reform synagogue. My grandparents were proud Jews who scouted out Jewish community wherever they traveled. While I grew up going to Hebrew school, became bat mitzvah and even went to Israel, it wasn’t until a BCI (Brandeis Collegiate Institute) summer camp for young adults in California, that I first studied Jewish text, dressed in white for Shabbat, made dear Jewish friends and danced to Israeli folk music. At BCI my hunger for Jewish literacy turned on and my appetite keeps growing. Still today, the more I learn, the more I want and feel compelled to share and teach.
What led you to become a rabbi?
I have been blessed to travel and live abroad, studying places and people, their stories and mine – from the Jews of Bombay to the desaparecidos of Argentina and child soldiers in Uganda. All of these worlds led me to look closer at my own narrative, my own texts, my own urgent call to be of service in the world. There is a Hasidic story about a person who looks the world over only to find treasure buried underneath their own home. For me, each place I travel and each community I have the privilege to serve leads me further home, into deeper understanding of myself, in dialogue with the world around me.
What do you love to teach?
I really love to teach people how to learn. By learn I mean how to sense their own questions, articulate them and then find the Jewish conversations – both ancient and contemporary – that might bring enhanced meaning, depth and vitality into their lives. Some favorite topics I love to teach are: prayer, mussar, theology, ritual design, meditation and Torah yoga. The voices I like to share include: Rabbi Arthur Green, Dr. Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Dr. Aviva Zornberg, Rabbi Alan Lew and Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, to name a few.
Who have been your mentors or inspirational people in your life?
My mentors are many, thank Gd. I am blessed to have extraordinary teachers who have shared their passions and love of life and learning with me. Ruth Messinger, past President of American Jewish World Service, is one of my mentors. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, though I never learned from him directly. Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, President of Hebrew College Rabbinical School in Boston and her brother Rabbi Steve Cohen, my first senior rabbi with whom I worked in Santa Barbara, and so many more.
What is the most meaningful part of the High Holy Days for you?
As summer winds down and fall (at least in North America) picks up there is a palpable feeling of new beginnings in the air. In Portland, we would gather chestnuts on the way to synagogue, in Los Angeles we look for parking. The High Holidays were always, and remain, a time of internal soul-accounting and holding the hands of people I love; coming to a sanctuary where for decades souls have come to pour their hearts out to Gd and, each year to muster the courage to discover something new about myself, Gd and our people. I look forward to davening, praying with you this year.
Why are you excited to be at Beth Chayim Chadashim?
This opportunity feels very special. This community feels very special. I am excited to walk with you as you reflect on where you have come from and where you are headed. Transitions are an opportunity to grow. There will be growing pains and moans, and I hope and welcome growing laughs and dances too. There is much to celebrate in BCC’s rainbow of colors, g’vanim, hues and shades of history, dedication, creativity, learning and love. I am thrilled to join you and welcome you to reach out. I’d love to hear where you are setting your sights for this new year ahead and how can I support you on your path? RabbiAlysonSolomon@bcc-la.org.
This article was taken from G’vanim Issue 47 vol 6, July/August 2019 Check out the full issue