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Q&A with the Interns


Q&A with the Interns

Our Cooperberg-Rittmaster Rabbinical Interns, Jason Bonder and Margot Meitner, joined our staff earlier this year. You've seen them at High Holy Days, Shabbat, and other programs, but many of you haven't had the chance to get to know our new interns. Learn what made them interested in CBST, their observations of CBST so far, and more!

Jason Bonder  is currently a second-year student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. He grew up Plainview, New York and as a child, he was passionate about sports and Judaism. Later, Jason was able to play baseball for the Tel Aviv Lightning in Israel's first and only season of professional baseball. In his free time Jason loves spending time with his wife, Rina, and also loves training for endurance events such as triathlons and marathons.

What drew you to CBST?

I was drawn to CBST because it is a place that has reclaimed Judaism for many people that were not accepted in other Jewish communities. I think that all of us go through a process of reclaiming Judaism in our lives in one way or another. Being in a place that has mastered this art of not only reclaiming Judaism but making a Jewish community thrive will be invaluable to my development as a rabbi. This experience will teach me to help others find a way to reclaim Judaism for themselves and find ways to incorporate Jewish practice into their lives.

What part of your own past experience do you think you'll be drawing from in the months ahead - and how?

At some point in kindergarten I learned that most of us have two ears and one mouth for a reason. It is a sign to us that we should listen twice as much as we speak! This addage has always stuck with me and I think it will serve me quite well in this internship. I have had the honor of leading services, teaching, and speaking in front of CBST members. Now that I have gotten a chance to show what I am bringing to this internship, I look forward to hearing feedback from the rabbis and the congregation so that I can thrive in this internship and acquire more skills as I move forward. So yes, this is an open invitation for feedback! I'm all ears :)

What surprises you most since coming here?

The thing that has surprised me most since coming here has been the immense pride people take in being members of CBST. Coming from the sports world, I often compare being a member at CBST to wearing a varsity jacket. When you're a member at CBST, you're part of an amazing club and everyone knows it. People are immensely proud of what this congregation has built in the last 40 years and what this congregation has built with Rabbi Kleinbaum at the helm for the past 20 years. I've never experienced a place where people are so filled with pride and joy to share the number of years that they have been members of CBST or to share how proud they are of this wonderful synagogue.

What don't we know about you that your mother would love to tell us?

One thing you don't know about me but my Mom loves to share is that when I was young I had long curly hair down to my shoulders. But as soon as I was old enough to make my own decisions, I wanted to cut my hair short. Now given my current hair style I'm wishing I could have kept those curls! :) 

Margot Meitner  is a rabbinical student at Hebrew College, a clinical social worker with a psychotherapy practice in Boston, and she has served as a Rabbinic Advisor at Harvard Hillel. She has worked with a variety of communities including families on welfare, people in psychiatric crisis, queer/transgender communities, and racially & ethnically diverse Jews. She also enjoys hiking over big hills, swimming in lakes, cooking and sharing delicious food over impassioned conversation with friends, unskillfully making art, and dancing for the joy of it. Margot holds an M.S.W. from Smith College School for Social Work and a B.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies and History from Yale University.

What drew you to CBST? 

Seventeen years ago when I was a closeted teenager, I snuck into New York City on the LIRR, not to go to a Queer dance club or a dyke bar, but to attend Pride Shabbat services at CBST (I was nerdy like that).  Ever since that formative and exhilarating experience of seeing the possibility of a thriving queer Jewish community, CBST has held an important place in my consciousness.  It was at CBST where I first had a glimpse of the type of community I hoped to one day be part of shaping. 

My passion for vibrant, creative, queer Jewish life, my commitment to the work of social change movements, and my penchant for building and sustaining community among Jews and non-Jews of all identities, races, and backgrounds, all drew me to CBST.  It is a place where I can bring my fullest self to the rabbinate. 

I always say that I feel a deep sense of peoplehood, not only in relationship to the Jewish community but also to the Queer community.  And it is a rare and incredibly special thing to have LGBTQ people of different generations in community together with one another as is the case at CBST, and I was excited about the prospect of serving such a community.  If we were born into Jewish families, we've got our bubbes and zaydehs to tell us how it was.  But as queers we don't naturally have that.  However, at CBST it's not uncommon to hear about the bar raids of the 1950s and 60s, the glory of the Chelsea Piers or the lesbian separatist communes of the 1970s, or the rise of ACT UP in the 1980s at a Shabbos Oneg. Access to that  part of our family history is also what draws me to CBST.

What part of your own past experience do you think you'll be drawing from in the months ahead - and how? 

I had the privilege of growing up with incredible rabbinic role models, including one of the first "hired-as-out" lesbian Rabbis, all of whom enabled me to come into my feminism, my social activism, and my queerness through  my Judaism, rather than in spite of it.  I hope to draw on this experience to ensure that those of us who have been traditionally marginalized in the Jewish community - including queer and transgender Jews, Jews of color, Jews with disabilities, Jews by choice, elder Jews, and intercultural and interfaith families know that we are an essential part of the CBST community. 

There is no doubt that I will be drawing upon the decade of experience I have as a clinical social worker, which has made me comfortable working with many different types of people and issues.  I imagine this background coming in handy in countless ways, whether that be in my pastoral work with congregants, or in the crisis management and quick problem solving that congregational life demands.

In terms of the more immediate past, I'm looking forward to taking all the knowledge I've acquired over the past four years in rabbinical school and finding the ways that those sacred texts and ideas speak to us today.

What surprises you most since coming here?

One thing that surprised me was how intimate Yom Kippur at the Jacob Javitz Center felt, despite there being 4,000 people there!  This speaks to the overall sense of closeness that exists between CBST members, which is really more striking than it is surprising.  It feels like a big family with a stream of Menschlechkeit running through it. 

I have also been surprised that there aren't more young women and transpeople who come to CBST.  

What don't we know about you that your mother would love to tell us? 

I just asked her.  She said, "I mean how mushy should I get!?  Margot is a warm, loving, caring human being..." I interrupt, "Mom, I think they want something funny or embarrassing for this thing."  

"Okay," she continues, "From the day Margot was born she has always been her own person.  When she was little, whenever we went to a department store or supermarket I had to have her paged on the loudspeaker because she would wander off on her own adventures, refusing to stay by my side.  And forget trying to get her to do something she didn't want to do!  At 4 she was debating like a 40 year old.  You couldn't win an argument with her.  Oh, and she is NOT a morning person!  Margot managed to graduate the top of her class in college without ever taking a class before 11am.  And she would probably be embarrassed if I told you that she was a deadhead in High School and she cried when Jerry Garcia died."

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