iconMezoogle24   iconFacebook24  iconDonate24 DONATE

From the Rabbi


From the Rabbi

Rabbi Ethan Bair


Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Rabbi Ethan Bair grew up in Boston where he was raised by spiritual seekers who rediscovered their Judaism through the Jewish Renewal movement. A graduate of Oberlin College and a former Fulbright scholar to Germany, Rabbi Bair was ordained at the Reform seminary, Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, in 2011. He wrote his Rabbinic thesis on "Re-Envisioning Reform Jewish Prayer," with Dr. Rachel Adler. While in rabbinical school, he was a recipient of the prestigious Schusterman Rabbinical Fellowship, which brought together future Reform and Conservative rabbis to learn about volunteer engagement, strategic planning and synagogue management. Stemming from this experience, Rabbi Bair would describe himself as a member of a new generation of Jewish leaders for whom denominations are secondary to transformational Jewish experience. Over the last six years, he has served congregations in Ogden, Utah; Vancouver, British Columbia; Sun Valley, Idaho; and San Rafael, CA. Most recently, he worked at American Jewish World Service, a global Jewish non-profit working to realize human rights in the developing world. Before that, he served as Campus Rabbi at the University of Southern California Hillel. Rabbi Bair is committed to creating a participatory and authentic Jewish prayer culture; promoting inter-faith social justice work; and integrating Jewish studies with traditional Jewish sources into his repertoire of teaching. He enjoys running, hiking, singing, and welcoming Shabbat guests into his home with his wife, Nadya. She is a doctoral candidate in Art History, currently writing her dissertation.


Learning from One Another

Written by // Rabbi Ethan Bair Categories // 2018 Posts

Warm greetings to you and your family from New Haven, CT! I hope you have enjoyed the beginning of a meaningful Pesach, and are feeling freer and freer with every crunch of matzah. I look forward to seeing many of you at services and at the Bat Mitzvah next Shabbat! In the meantime, here are some reflections on this week’s Torah portion, which is special for the Shabbat coinciding with the 8th and final day of Passover.

We read from the end of Parshat Re’eh this Shabbat, (Deut. 14:22 – 16:17) which unsurprisingly includes laws for Pesach and the other pilgrimage holidays (Shavuot and Sukkot). Yet more surprisingly perhaps, the portion delves into the topic of forgiving debts and releasing slaves. On Passover, just as we remember that we all went out from Egypt together, we consider how that experience demands all Jews treat one another as equals. In times of freedom and plenty, we must remember our brethren, and ensure that there exist “no destitute among you.” (Deut. 15:4) All members of our community are responsible for lifting up those whose basic needs otherwise go unmet.

Yet I believe that this teaching applies in the positive as well as the negative: We all have something worthwhile to learn from one another. All members of our community are worth listening to, and everyone deserves respectful treatment. This line from Torah aspires toward a time of radical equality, which aligns with the ritual at the end of Seder, when we open the door for Elijah and pray for a time of radical equality on Earth-- not just among Jews but among all people. Passover is a holiday that reminds us at the soul level of the adage: No one is free until all are free.

And so, Passover teaches us to notice; to pay attention to those in our community in need. But also to listen and understand the experience of others. It is a perfect time for our Temple Sinai community to begin a short period of three months when congregants will be leading services, offering divrei Torah and (in six cases) become b’nei mitzvah. During my parental leave (and three-month period of my Jewish good-bye with the congregation), it is worth listening to what various members of our community have to teach us, too.

A few weeks ago, three adults in our community became b’nei mitzvah: Steve Myerson, Ignacio Montoya and Alexa Foley. (It turns out you don’t have to be twelve going on thirteen to experience this life-cycle event). Many of you were very moved, as I was, by what each of them had to teach. So, upon request, we’ve posted their words immediately below in this issue of News from Sinai. Those of you who missed it, I encourage you to read and learn from their inspiring interpretations of Torah and life experience. And, those who heard these teachings in person may want to read and digest their words on your own time. Each of one is very different and uniquely wise. As Pirkei Avot teaches, “Who is wise? –One who learns from all people.”

Wishing each of you a meaningful end of Passover, and a good few months of taking the time to learn from fellow members of Temple Sinai, newer and longer-term members alike. Come to the board-led service this Friday!

Chag Pesach sameach,
Rabbi Bair



Rabbi Bair’s Parental Leave

Categories // 2018 Posts

Dear Temple Sinai Community,

Firstly, if you are considering attending the Temple Sinai Annual Passover Seder at the Atlantis (my last with the congregation), please book your tickets by this Friday and avoid the late registration fee. If you need help affording it, simply call or email me or Passover Seder Planning Committee chair, Suzy Klass.

As some of you may have heard, I will be on ten weeks’ parental leave in New Haven starting April 3. From April through the end of June when my tenure with Temple Sinai ends, I will be flying back to Reno six times for long weekends, which will include all B’nei Mitzvah in the congregation. During those long weekends, (usually Thurs-Sun) I will also be present for Friday night services and Sinai School, as well as some meetings and pastoral visits. I will be supervising Sinai School from afar. For life cycle emergencies (i.e. funerals), I would also fly back or make arrangements for when I am in town. There will be Friday night services every week during these months, led by competent and dedicated members of the community, such as Ignacio Montoya (with Toby Pechner on April 20 for Shabbat Unplugged!), the Temple Sinai Board of Trustees (April 6), Judy Schumer, Jeff Gingold and Marilyn Roberts, to name a few! Please show up in support as leadership is shared during these months!

The dates I am scheduled to be in Reno include the following Shabbat B’nei Mitzvah:

  • April 14 Jenna Stovak
  • May 5 Eli Schumer (including Tot Shabbat and 6:00 p.m. service May 4)
  • May 19 Sovereign Edmands (including Shabbat Unplugged! May 18)
  • June 2 Lucas Gorelick (including Tot Shabbat and 6:00 p.m. service June 1)
  • June 16 Diego Guzman (including Shabbat Unplugged! June 15)
  • June 30 Jacob Bainton

For all other needs and concerns from April – June, please contact the following T.S. leaders:

  • For Caring concerns, Harvey Katz: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • For Jewish Practice / Services questions, Marilyn Roberts: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • For space rentals and questions for the Board, VP Howie Holden: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • For Torah for Tots, Judy Schumer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • For Life Cycle questions, include VP Howie Holden as well as me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • For Sinai School questions, include Asst. Dir. Rachel Katz as well as me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • For administrative questions, Mike Stombaugh in the office: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Please feel free to copy me on Temple emails during this time at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • In case of life-cycle emergencies, my emergency cell phone number is: (775) 525-1728.

I very much appreciate everyone’s coming together and stepping up during my parental leave and before my family and I say our good-byes and move on as I step into an Associate Rabbi position at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach this July. As the congregation has its identity that is not defined by its spiritual leader, I hope community members will remain active during these months of transition as the congregation prepares to welcome its next rabbi/s. I am going to miss our wonderful T.S. community next year – I hope many of you will stay in touch! Please let me know if you have any questions.

Hope to see many of you this coming Shabbat at Friday night and the Adult B’nei Mitzvah Shabbat morning at 10:00 a.m.! Wishing everyone a zissen Pesach!

Rabbi Bair

[12  >>  

Rabbi Bair's Blog Archive