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From the Rabbi


From the Rabbi

Rabbi Ethan Bair


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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.


Awareness and Redemption

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

 In Parshat Shmot, the first of the Book of Exodus, the focus shifts from the family of Israel to the people of Israel as a nation. “It came to pass in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. The children of Israel sighed because of their bondage, and they cried out, and their cry rose up to God because of their bondage.” (Ex. 2:23) Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter commented that until the king died the Israelites were so deeply sunk in exile that they did not even feel it. But now the process of redemption begins because they became aware of their enslavement. Before this moment, presumably, the people did not even recognize how hard their lives are. God only moved to help the people toward redemption once they themselves recognized their need for change.

Regarding Shmot, the Sfat Emet, teaches: “That which is true of the people as a whole is true of each individual person as well.” His commentary on the portion is a psychological one that recognizes the power of shifting our thinking on an individual and communal level. When we become aware of the injustices around us, change becomes possible in our personal lives and in the society at large. As we enter a new secular year and study the birth story of our people in the Torah, may we remember the power of awareness to forge new paths toward freedom. Every movement toward freedom begins with a cry.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Bair



Hanukkah Miracles

Written by // Rabbi Ethan Bair Categories // 2017 Posts

Hanukkah begins on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 12 next week! Hanukkah is the season of miracles. We celebrate the Maccabees’ victory over the Greek armies led by King Antiochus IV over 2,000 years ago.  These armies overran the Temple in Jerusalem, setting up an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs. Because they forced our ancestors to miss the holy festivals that year, including Sukkot, it is no coincidence that Hanukkah lasts the same length of time as our harvest holiday. When our ancestors re-dedicated the holy Temple, they kept the dedication going for eight nights, which of course, was a Hanukkah miracle. Every time I light the menorah on Hanukkah, I am inspired by the enduring spirit of the Jewish people to overcome adversity and oppression, and constantly to rededicate ourselves to Jewish life and values. We celebrate our freedom to practice Judaism and live out our Jewish values b’chol dor vador, in every generation. As we light the Hanukkah candles, we thank God for the miracle of Jewish continuity throughout the ages. We also rekindle hope that we as a society can continue to overcome adversity and injustice today.

Please join us next Friday at 6:00 p.m. for Shabbat Unplugged – Hanukkah! And bring your menorah and candles for our communal menorah-lighting. Toby Pechner will again join us on guitar. You can learn the new melodies of Shabbat Unplugged! here.

Get inspired for Hanukkah with the a capella group Six13: This Hanukkah-themed Hamilton parody is awesome! (So are all their videos).

Here is an at-home Hanukkah service for each of the eight nights!

Wishing you and yours light, joy and peace this Hanukkah,

Rabbi Bair

P.S. To keep the light of Jewish community bright in Reno, please consider making a special year-end contribution to Temple Sinai this Hanukkah.


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