The Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community is pleased to welcome Rabbi Oren Postrel to our community!
The community is pleased to have attracted Rabbi Postrel, who brings with him a diverse and fascinating background. He has led Jewish communities in the Napa Valley as well as Lake Tahoe and currently serves as adjunct rabbi at Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos, California.
Rabbi Postrel grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, where he was introduced to Jewish progressive ideas, the creative arts and spiritual expression at the Reform movement’s Camp Swig in Northern California. Along with developing his Jewish identity, he was exposed to dance. When he learned about and saw the famous Russian ballet dancer, Mikhail Baryshnikov, the experience convinced Rabbi Postrel, as well as his parents, that dance was a viable career for a young man. “Baryshnikov made ballet okay for boys”, Postrel says. After rigorous training, he danced with the Oakland Ballet.
However, after sustaining some injuries and realizing he needed a college education, he enrolled and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley where he was awarded a degree in the history of art. He traveled to Jerusalem in his junior year abroad. While there, he made the decision to become a rabbi and, after college, enrolled in the Hebrew Union College. The path to being a rabbi is a rigorous one, taking an additional 5-6 years of study post-college.
Rabbi Postrel’s first rabbinic job was in Paris. After Paris, he worked in New York for sixteen years at the Jewish Home and Hospital. Then in 2005, Postrel returned to California. He has also studied chaplaincy in oncology and emergency medicine and hopes to bring these skills to the Santa Ynez Valley.
When asked what attracted him to take this one-weekend-a-month position, he describes hoping to help the Jewish community learn to express their Judaism in new and creative ways. He is impressed with the natural beauty of the region and with the multitude of creative people he has met here. It helps also that Oren Postrel has great love and knowledge of wine and has even been a wine writer.
The Jewish community in the Santa Ynez Valley is very fortunate in welcoming this multi-talented rabbi into their midst and hopes to learn new expressions of an ancient religion with Rabbi Postrel.
Rabbi Oren's Email
We invite you to reflect on Rabbi Oren's Review of this week's Torah portion.
This is a great time of the calendar for Jews, whether you’re in the big city or in the Santa Ynez Valley. In more natural spots, we’re more obviously connected to our ancient identity as agricultural people.
One example is the Omer. The period between Passover and Shavu’ot is called ‘The Omer.’ Firstly, the Omer was a type of sacrifice that was offered in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem when we were still making sacrifices. Next, the Omer is counted as an anticipatory tool to number the days until Shavu’ot, when tradition tells us that Moses was given the Torah and the entirety of the Bible and Talmud on Mt Sinai in one exhalation of God’s breath. And most importantly, this is a mind-blowing idea.
I ask as has been asked for millennia: how is it possible that Moses could have received the book in which he is born and dies as well as all of Talmud which came thousands of years after his death?
We don’t have to go very far to find massively compelling ideas in Judaism. They’re at the core of what we do and who we are. We don’t have to go on a complex search expedition to esoteric Judaism—-Kabbalah—-because the mystical ideas in Judaism are at the basic foundations.
So we have a sufficiently stimulating year, I’d like you to think about how we’re going to spend our year of Saturday learning. Interested in the festivals? Great. Jewish California? Sweet. Italian, Spanish or French Jewish communities? Can do. One particular book of the Hebrew Bible? Ok, we can do that. How do Jews relate to contemplative traditions? Talmud? Contemporary thinkers? Yes and yes.
It’s always a good time of the year to do some mind-stretching and Jewish learning. So think about those questions and ideas for the upcoming weekend. I’d love to hear your questions about what you’ve been curious about and what you’d like to learn Jewishly.
Finally. I’d love to get to know this community each person one at a time. If after Friday services isn’t too late, that so far will work best for me, or after Saturday study. In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing lots of folks this weekend for services and for the annual meeting.
Rabbi Oren Postrel