Oh, Andy…

Andy in Pagoda Isaac at Kutz in 2006.

Six years ago, I met Rabbi Andy Bachman during my first summer at Kutz. During the four years or so when I wanted to be a rabbi, I usually blamed that urge on him.

He’s now the senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn. They’re looking for a new cantor and an email about their search just went out on a jobs list I’m on. The email also had a link to this story about Andy in New York Magazine, which I hadn’t read before.

The story begins with an anecdote that I hadn’t heard before, but was quite familiar to me (emphasis mine):

Like many first encounters with Rabbi Andy Bachman, Leah Rosen’s didn’t take place in a synagogue. Rosen, a social worker, and her fiancé, Matt Schrag, who works in Internet advertising, were shopping for a wedding officiant and had arranged to meet their new rabbi in a Park Slope Starbucks. They’d begun chatting when a vaguely familiar song came on the sound system. The couple couldn’t place it—but Bachman, dressed as usual like an indifferent fortysomething dad, could: “The Killing Moon,” by Echo and the Bunnymen.

“We were like, ‘Oh, my God, he’s a rabbi?’” Rosen recalls.

It’s rare, of course, to find a rabbi with such indie-rock fluency—but it’s even rarer to find one who’s not flogging that knowledge in an effort to seem hip with the kids.

That summer at Kutz, I was sitting on the lawn one afternoon chatting with Andy. His dog, Nathan, was puttering around sniffing the grass. His wife, Rachel, was hanging out with their three girls, one of whom kept calling Nathan “the idiot,” as I distinctly remember. The conversation I was having with Andy at this moment was the one that convinced me for years that I should be a rabbi.

And in the middle of all of this, Rachel said something like, “Oh, Andy. Remember to get those Arcade Fire tickets when we get back to the city.”

I was similarly blown away.

Andy writes a very thoughtful and well-written blog over here. And here’s CBE’s phenomenal synagogue website, one of the best I’ve seen.

And here he's telling us what we should really be doing if we wanna emulate angels during Kedushah--rise up on our tip-toes and flap our wings. He also suggested growing extra heads.

In this one, he's describing to a group of high school kids what kabbalah is really all about--head rushes. He told us how the kabbalah masters of old would stick their heads between their legs and then sit up quickly so they could have mystical experiences. He encouraged us all to join him.

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8 Responses to Oh, Andy…

  1. Larry Kaufman February 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    I don’t know Rabbi Bachman, although I do read his blog regularly, thanks, David, to your introduction. And I admire his programs and accomplishments at CBE. He has been able to capitalize effectively on the resurgence of Park Slope and environs as an attractive residential neighborhood for young Jewish families and singles, basically relating effectively to his own demographic status.

    Still, while saying Kol Hakavod to Rabbi Bachman, I think the New York magazine article of four years ago was unreasonably harsh on his predecessor (whom I do know). Any rabbinate settles into a pattern over time, and it’s inevitable that as the rabbi ages, he’ll relate less well to those twenty and thirty years his junior. Having just lived through a rabbinic transition, I see the new rabbi making modest changes — perhaps less dramatic from her having been with the congregation for a decade before succeeding her mentor — while attracting a cadre of new, younger members who apparently can relate better to their peer than they might have to someone whose grandchildren are contemporary with their children. No value judgment implied — I joined the congregation because of my regard for the now emeritus, but I recognize that congregations are always in flux, some of which is internal and some of which is external. I have no doubt that the changes at CBE are the product of both.

  2. Laura February 9, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    That guy sounds awesome. Occasionally I wish I was a teenager just so I could go to summer camp.

    You wanted to be a rabbi? For four years? Then what happened?

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

      Then I thought about the idea of me as anyone’s spiritual leader. And that picture just looked a little odd.

      • Laura February 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

        You should just stop messing around and become a cantor already.

        • David A.M. Wilensky February 11, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

          Ha! One of these days, I’ll illustrate a point by uploading audio of my attempting some nusach. Then you’ll regret you suggested that.

  3. Kelly February 14, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Please don’t do that.


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