Rabbi Tom Samuels
I remember Shabbat afternoons learning the weekly Torah portion with my Zaida. We both loved these sessions: pure joy, connection, safety. My Zaida held my hand as I delved into the text, and I held his hand as he delved into his memories. And so, I learn and teach Torah, lead Shabbat and Holiday services, hold people's hands during those times of fear and despair. These moments make me feel a certain way, transforming my heart and my mind. It is spiritual. It is religious. They are one and the same.
I am blessed and honored to be a part of the MCJC community. MCJC is a model of how a group of different people, with a wide array of backgrounds, traditions, beliefs, personalities, interests, capabilities and the like, come together as a community. MCJC is a place which encourages embracing our obligations and responsibilities towards each other. Where God’s declaration that communion with Him/Her must be done through a living community, “I will be sanctified among the Children of Israel” (Leviticus 22:32), is sought and yearned for.
Being a rabbi is a calling. I have a passion to inspire and to engage with others on co-creating environments and experiences where meaning and memory-making can happen. To navigate together through these times of transition. To find our spiritual voices. To integrate meaning and purpose in to our everyday lives. To hold peoples’ hands during times of fear and despair. To share those precious times of joy and simcha. These moments are transformative, heart and mind, connecting to our souls, our neshamot.
I have a diverse academic and professional background, including: service in the IDF; fluency in Hebrew and Jewish texts; intensive study at yeshivot, Talmudic academies, in Israel Toronto and in New York City; immersions in ashrams as well as devout secularism; and years of organizing communities around social justice issues. I have an undergraduate degree from Yeshiva University in accounting and Jewish studies; a masters degree in Jewish studies from Spertus; a second masters degree in landscape architecture and urban design from the University of Guelph; and fellowships in Israel education and Jewish leadership. I am also a past Interfaith Ambassador with the Interfaith Youth Core.
I look forward to working with MCJC’s diverse voices so that together we can build upon this wonderful community’s tradition of Torah (Study), Avodah (Service) and Gimilut Hassadim (Acts of Loving-kindness).