I was born in Los Angeles, and we moved to San Francisco when I was five, so that my father could get a better job in the state university system. My parents both came from pretty assimilated families, and in San Francisco they started becoming more interested in Judaism. One of my first Jewish memories is walking to shul with my father, and my father pointing out Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach walking on the opposite sidewalk. My mother told me of a discussion she had with my elementary school teacher about the suitability of Christmas hymn singing for Jewish children. The Six Day War was very significant for my parents, and they helped people go to Israel to work as volunteers around that time. When I was about eight we moved to San Diego, where my brother and I were enrolled in the local Jewish day school. My parents became very involved in the functioning of the day school, and were becoming increasingly religious. When I was about eleven, the family moved to Bnei Brak. I found Bnei Brak interesting, but I think the changes in culture were a bit too extreme for me to cope with extremely well. At the end of our year in Israel my father died, and we moved to Bayit Vegan. This again was a very religious neighbourhood, but I could get to libraries and bookstores which did not specialise in theology.
My family returned later to the States for two years, and when we came back to Israel I was drafted. My three years were educational. I spent them on the West Bank. After the army I studied at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus for two years. At the end of my second year, I went to Edinburgh for the theatre festival. I auditioned for, and was accepted by, a touring drama school. They were based in Exeter. I met my wife, who is not Jewish, in the drama school. I became involved with the Jewish community here in Exeter. I marry people, and bury people, and take Friday night services, and explain our faith and practices to school groups. I have been President of the congregation for the past year.
Being Jewish means caring about a lot of things for a lot of reasons. The reasons seem to derive from the kind of Jewish upbringing I had. I care about keeping my community of Jews here in Exeter together. I feel that being Jewish means fostering a sense of community, a sense that there is a group that Jewish people can feel connected to. I find that for me this comes from my peripatetic childhood. I find that I have a need to work against racism and fascism. This comes out of a liberal family background, and the Passover Seder, telling us to take care of the stranger, and to my father having escaped Vienna with his immediate family before the German annexation. I think deciding what commandments to carry out is part of being Jewish to me. For me being Jewish is about thinking for yourself and seeking the truth that works in your life. Taking steps to change things that are wrong is part of it. Perfect faith is not enough. The actions must be correct also. [EW]