Institute of Jewish Services and Studies (IJSS) April services will be held on Friday,
April 23 at 7 p.m. Rabbi Seltzer will be officiating. Services will be viewed via Zoom. IJSS members will be receiving the Zoom link prior to Friday, April 23 via email.
Following is a discussion with Rabbi Seltzer as he leaves the IJSS.
1. You have been the IJSS rabbi for ten years. What wishes do you have for the congregation that you have served? What have you learned from us?
I wish only the best; that growth continues and prospers. That all will continue to find the worship and study experience meaningful. I hope that over these ten years, I have touched some lives and their knowledge of Judaism enhanced.
For those not affiliated with Judaism there is no singular event, it doesn’t work that way. When one is looking for something in their lives, positive or negative, a teaching opportunity, guidance in the synagogue; they will come when ready. In my decade of involvement, attendance and participation have increased appreciably from perhaps initially 30 to 40 to between 80 and even 100. It is a very affirming experience. I see that as a very positive opportunity for the new rabbi and something to build upon.
2. Is there a story from the Bible that influenced you as a person, a cleric, and as a student of Judaism?
Interesting question. Let me answer it this way:
I always had a bent and motivation to study the subject as deeply as possible. When it comes to sermons and discussions, people don’t want to be fed pablum. My overriding goal is to have people say, “‘Gee, I didn’t know that. I learned something new today,” or, “That was very moving and inspirational.” There is a biblical verse from the Book of Proverbs that has been my guide through all of this. “Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom.”
3. You were ordained 62 years ago. Every sermon you prepare and deliver is new. What keeps you fresh and always exploring?
Preparing a new sermon keeps me on my toes. It demands my own continuing research and study. It is important to the congregants and to be chronically sharp as well. Also, I learn in the process.
Do you ever get tired?
I have served as a pulpit rabbi; but spent more years academically. My academic experiences include the motivation in terms of articles for publications, a book or two, preparing coursework. I get tired but that weariness is temporary. The redemptive component of anyone who writes or speaks has moments of ‘OY’. Those moments are short and limited. Take time out to fortify yourself. My experience will continue that way.
4. Judaism has been a major proponent of your life. What do you do in your downtime? What are your plans as you leave us?
I grew up in a very orthodox Jewish home. Whatever its deficits I learned to become assured by the aspects that were comfortable. Those experiences facilitated my capacity to be Jewish in liberal environments. I went to Hebrew speaking camps, played baseball in Hebrew, had academic classes in Hebrew, dancing, sports. Camp gave me both intellectual and emotional experiences. Those learnings growing up were motivational in my becoming a rabbi. Camp provided me with many great moments of my life and transformed me in many ways.
In my downtime I read a lot, enjoy the beauty of Arizona, and travel when my wife and I can overseas. We have grandchildren in New England.
I plan to continue teaching under the auspices of the Jewish History Museum and Holocaust Center as I do currently as well as a variety of congregations.
The past ten years have been very meaningful for me. I didn’t make this decision easily. Soul searching allows the experience to linger for each person. I can only say: ‘L’hitra’ot’ (I’ll see you again).