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Our Town: Skiing rabbi is in tune with Tahoe

Jennie Tezak
Jonah M. Kessel / Tahoe Daily TribuneRabbi Jonathan Freirich holds his 6-month-old son, Judah, while singing a prayer on the first night of Hanukkah at his home Tuesday night.
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Rabbi Jonathan Freirich, who terms himself “the face of Judaism for South Lake Tahoe,” works at Temple Bat Yam. He has lived in the area for 4 1/2 years. Freirich, 37, performs regular services at the temple and also conducts weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs for the Jewish community.

Freirich was born in New York City in a hospital across the street from his high school. He enjoys skiing, riding his bicycle, running, hiking and yoga. He reads science fiction and other types of fiction and enjoys going to movies and playing board games.

Freirich has been married for 11 years to his wife, Ginny, an artist who makes traditional wedding contracts for Jewish marriages. The couple have a 6-month-old son.

Ginny and Rabbi Jonathan’s good friend Forrest Silverman, a licensing executive at Microsoft Corp., tried to guess Rabbi Jonathan’s answers to some probing questions.

Rabbi Jonathan: “Sushi.”

Ginny: “Sushi.”

Forrest: “Sushi and steak.”

Rabbi Jonathan: “The mcost worrisome issue is extremism. Our public perception is that everyone is with us or against us, and actually we’re all on the same team. We give a lot of face time to people with extreme views because they sell more advertising.”

Ginny: “Environmental issues; protecting the future against environmental problems.”

Forrest: “Religion and politics, because the rights granted to us by the Constitution don’t meet the same standards of religious requirements.”

Rabbi Jonathan: “I’m re-reading ‘The Subtle Knife’ by Phillip Pullman, and I’m also reading a commentary on the book of Genesis.”

Ginny: “He’s reading the book after ‘The Golden Compass’ in the trilogy.”

Forrest: “The torah, because his father just passed away, so he’s reading it as a part of tradition; he’s also reading the ‘The Golden Compass.’ “

Rabbi Jonathan: “I’m listening to a lot of Regina Spektor right now. I also like William Shatner’s music.”

Ginny: “Alternative rock.”

Forrest: “Alternative.”

Rabbi Jonathan: “I’d be a professional skier, because it’s one of my biggest passions. It would be fun to get paid to do it. I couldn’t imagine being a professional football player at 5 feet, 3 inches, and 150 pounds. I do have my dream profession already, though.”

Ginny: “A ski instructor, because he loves to ski.”

Forrest: “An exercise physiologist. He would get a huge kick out of that. He likes to work out. We run together. He has theories about exercise.”

Rabbi Jonathan: “Eli Wiesel. He’s been talking and writing and teaching about how to get along in humanity in the face of personal tragedy for most of his life.”

Ginny: “Jon Stewart. He enjoys the fact that Jon Stewart is publicly Jewish.”

Forrest: “Nelson Mandela, because of his ability to influence in a nonviolent manner.”

Rabbi Jonathan: “I would say Maimonides. He was a medieval scholar. He was a scientist and a religious scholar. He was a doctor who fled Muslim oppression in Spain. He managed in his lifetime to take works of Jewish law and simplify them. He became a thinker and a doer. That’s what I admire most about him.”

Ginny: “Maimonides, because he was an all-around intellectual guy.”

Forrest: “Maimonides, a Jewish figure, because he challenged Jewish thinking at the time. One of Jon’s precepts is challenging thought.”

Rabbi Jonathan: “I would wish for true peace on Earth. I would wish that everyone had all their needs taken care of, and no one would have a reason to fight.”

Ginny: “Snow. Year-round snow, because he loves to ski.”

Forrest: “World peace, because that is publishable.”

Rabbi Jonathan: “I would go back in time and prevent Lincoln’s death. It would have a greater impact on society than if the Titanic sunk. It would save more lives in the long run.”

Ginny: “Lincoln, because he was a great leader, and there would be more of an impact on history.”

Forrest: “He would keep the Titanic from sinking, because it would save more people.”

Rabbi Jonathan: “A bicycle. I could get around better and get exercise. It’s both practical and enjoyable. It would have to be a mountain bike, though.”

Ginny: “His computer, because I can’t imagine him without it.”

Forrest: “He would bring his personal computer so he could keep in touch.”


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