Guest column: What this Rabbi loves about Tahoe, Part 1
Ryan Summerlin November 8, 2013
When I came to interview to become the next rabbi at Temple Bat Yam: The Jewish Community of South Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley during February 2011, it was dumping snow. I love to ski, so I understood what happened that first morning of my interview weekend. I was slightly surprised that my friends and hosts in Truckee, who were planning to drive me to the South Shore for my interview, woke me up, handed me the keys to their car and said, “drive yourself, we’re going skiing!” I feel like it has not really snowed since that interview weekend, but I definitely have learned so many amazing things I love about Tahoe, including powder days (no matter how few and far between).
Another part of living in Tahoe that has become part of my life is the array of recreational choices. As one who loves to play outdoors, I am never at a loss to find an activity. The choices are plentiful and the knowledge I gain from learning new sports and activities is wonderful.
In Jewish life, too, there are many choices to be made. We, as a people, are responsible for a rich and varied tradition that stretches back thousands of years. The Reform tradition, of which Temple Bat Yam is a part — www.reformjudaism.org, has a long history that really began in Europe. While our institutional roots are in this country, Judaism has always embraced and even celebrated the need to evolve, to change and grow with the reality of our people. While our tradition consists of 613 commandments — many of which are not practiced today even by the most classically practicing Jews — Reform Judaism teaches that we all have the responsibility to study, to learn and then make choices about our religious observance. The principle is called Choice Through Knowledge. It is the idea that with learning new skills, new ideas and even older parts of our Jewish tradition, we must always be making choices for our own practice. We make these choices for our own lives in a way that honors our past and ensures it will lives on while preserving a sense of meaning for our lives in the present. I have found that Tahoe has encouraged me to gain new knowledge, to learn about new ways to enjoy the natural beauty. To me, this jives so well with the Judaism I love and believe is so rich with choices to be made for meaningful lives.
In the more than two years that I have called Tahoe home, I have also become a father! The choices and knowledge, the opportunities and challenges that come with parenthood have been amazing. I know that the choices I make, both in our rich Reform Jewish tradition and in living life in the out of doors will enrich my son’s life. I love the way living in this great community, people and location, reflects so much about what I love about liberal and progressive Judaism.