Guided by mentors, Caitlin Brazner prepares to carry the flame forward, l’dor vador

By Student Rabbi Caitlin Brazner

My journey to rabbinical school began with a meaningful conversation with my mentor, Rabbi Educator Vicki L. Tuckman, zichrona livracha.

After a great day working alongside Vicki at URJ Camp Harlam, a Jewish summer camp in Kunkletown, Pa., we found ourselves sitting on her cabin porch around midnight as the stars rose over the Mahoning Valley.

I still remember her exact words: “You’re going to be a rabbi — you just don’t know it yet.”

I laughed it off; a well-intentioned but incorrect prediction, I thought.

Eight years later, as I wrap up my fourth year of rabbinical school, it would seem an “I told you so” may be in order.

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As Israel turns 73, we mourn victims of war on Yom HaZikaron; celebrate on Yom Ha’atzmaut

By Student Rabbi Caitlin Brazner

This week, beginning at sundown Tuesday, April 13, Israelis observe the twin national holidays of Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembrance, and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.

The largest and some of the most widely observed of Israel’s national holidays, Remembrance Day and Independence Day offer Israelis and indeed, Jews worldwide, an opportunity to reflect on the Jewish State and its importance in our lives.

Yom HaZikaron is a solemn day in Israel, memorializing Israeli soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the War of Independence and subsequent battles.

Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, follows on Thursday, April 14, as an altogether different affair.

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Echoing Leviticus, we are a nation of priests, sacrificing for the sanctity of human life

By Student Rabbi Caitlin Brazner

This month, as Purim gives way to Passover, as snow turns to spring rains, we will come to the book of Leviticus in our Torah cycle.

With its chapters of priestly codes, sacrificial rites and often unmodern laws and restrictions, Leviticus can be challenging for some of us to read as contemporary, progressive Jews.

What does a user manual for Temple practice have to do with us, Reform Jews living a millennium after the destruction of said Temple?

What can we glean from its many teachings around sacrifice and ritual giving?

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Amanda Gorman’s faith meets Esther’s courage to commemorate a Purim story of resilience

By Student Rabbi Caitlin Brazner

Barely one month ago, this country exercised one of its more profound and significant rituals: the peaceful transfer of power from one political leader to the next.

The inauguration of a new president is a shining example of democratic excellence and a testament to our nation’s devotion to the groundbreaking ideals enshrined in our Constitution.

This year’s Inauguration Day proved no exception. Though threatened two weeks earlier by insurrectionist violence at the Capitol, the peaceful events of Jan. 20, 2021, affirmed Americans’ unflagging commitment to our democratic ideals.

Among the many fine speakers at the inauguration, one in particular stood out — 22-year-old Amanda Gorman.

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