Message from Rabbi Inna Serebro Litvak

This past Thursday, May 12, I was ordained as a Rabbi. It was a 

culmination of three years of intensive studies and many years of self search. There are no words to express the joy I experienced during that day, surrounded by my family – my husband Anatoly and daughters Emily and Abigail; and my extended family at Temple Beth Am. I was overwhelmed with happiness and pride to see so many of you come to support me. Thank you so much for coming and sharing this simcha with me! I also appreciate all the good wishes from the whole congregation. For those of you who couldn’t make it to the ceremony, I want to share the speech that I gave at the ordination. I am looking forward to sharing with you the knowledge I have gained in school in text, history and general Judaic studies.

“When I look back at the time of my entrance exams at AJR, I remember Rabbi Jeff Hoffman asking me during the interview:  “Inna, how are you going to handle your family, your job and the program in school?” And I clearly remember how I replied:”Rabbi Hoffman – I’ll make it work!”

If only I knew then, how hard it really would be I would’ve collected my application and run before Rabbi Hoffman had a chance to ask me another question!

 But as we studied many rabbinical sources, I came across a teaching that spoke to me the most. It read:  “It is permissible to a student to add two hours a day in order to study.”  Well, since I rarely follow the rules, I added another two hours to that, and voila – my days became 28 hours long!

I can tell you, those four hours made a big difference. On any given day I was able to take an hour walk,  send my children off to school all while cleaning the house and doing laundry; completing all my administrative work for Temple Beth Am, reading an audio book and checking on friends – all of this occurred  while spending four hours on average commuting in my car; attending the classes (periodically taking  power naps), tutoring b’nai mitzvah, getting the dinner ready, checking the girls’ home work, putting them to bed, preparing my home work, online window shopping, writing a paper, online window shopping, reading for school, online window shopping and finally on the 24th hour of the day – sleeping!

Well, to tell you the truth, there isn’t really any Rabbinic teaching, granting students like me the ability to add hours to the day in the pursuit of study! But there is a real truth here – and that truth is something I learned at AJR. It is this:  if you are determined, you can achieve any goal you set through the hard work, persistence and lack of sleep.

During my years at AJR (Academy for Jewish Religion) I was lucky to meet extremely talented and smart people among the students, staff and professors, who all cherish community and exemplify true menches.

 I wouldn’t be standing here today if it wouldn’t be for the congregational members and my colleagues at Temple Beth Am. Their support and encouragement reaffirmed my decision to become a rabbi. I especially appreciate their instant feedback to my sermons.  I am lucky to be at a temple where all the members act as my extended family.

Thank you to my incredible friends who were the first proof readers of my papers and sermons and my cheerleaders.

And finally I want to thank my husband Anatoly and my daughters, Emily and Abigail, for putting up with my constant absence and attempting to keep the volume down when I tried to study during normal hours of the day. As promised – mommy is back!”