Changing the Rules

Episode 64: Unconventional Faith and Family, Rabbi Ari Moffic, guest

Episode Summary

As we see our lives changing, we also see family and religious beliefs changing. Families and religious beliefs are intertwined. Our guest, Rabbi Ari Moffic takes us on a journey of how she came to be a Jewish educator. Witnessing firsthand her best friend navigating topics of religion and raising children, to experiencing interfaith families at her church. This sparked excitement and interest for Ari as she started her rabbinate. She believes there is fluidity of roles and religion to name a few. Being conscious of diversity and the people and community around us. Take a list to Rabbi Ari and how she is "Changing the Rules." Ray was joined by his guest co-host, Rebecca Hoffman, who founded @goodeggconcepts This week we enjoyed meeting Rabbi Ari Moffic who is devoting her rabbinate to issues of interfaith life, the new fluidity in society, and education. Rabbi Moffic shared insights about how she’s Changing the Rules and how she is one of the Luckiest People In The World. #RabbiAriMoffic @interfaith #fluidity #goodeggconcepts #changingtherules #Theluckiestpeopleintheworld

Episode Notes

Co-host:  Rebecca Hoffman:

Rebecca's website:

Podcast Guest:  Rabbi Ari Moffic Email:


Podcast Transcription:

Kris Parsons  0:03  

Welcome to "Changing the Rules," a weekly podcast about people who are living their best life and how you can figure out how to do it too.  Join us with your life, the host Ray Loewe, better known as The Luckiest Guy in the World.

Ray Loewe  0:17  

Good morning, everybody. This is Ray Loewe. And I'm sitting here in wonderful Woodbury, New Jersey at the Wildfire Podcast Studios with our engineer Taylor, manning the foreword over here and he's going to keep me straight and make sure that this podcast goes through because I'm a technical Luddite. But I've got some great things to talk to you about today. First of all, let me recap what "Changing the Rules" is all about, and "Changing the Rules" is a podcast that we developed for The Luckiest People in the World. And it's to help them become luckier and luckier and luckier.  The Luckiest People in the World are those people who invent their own lives, and design them constantly as things change, and then live them to the fullest. And "Changing the Rules" is about one of the factors that we have to go through to do that. You know, throughout our lives, we've all been given rules. And those rules started with our parents when we were growing up. And then they went to the schools, and then they went to our church or synagogue. And then they went to our jobs, and everybody seems to have rules for us. And those rules generally are good, because they add structure to our life, but over time what happens is they add clutter to our life. And a lot of those rules that we are given are no longer as important or critical to, to our lives. And one of the things that we found is that if you're living your life by other people's rules, you can't really truly live your own life, you're living somebody else's life. And that's what the show is all about. And I'm excited today because I have a co-host today and Rebecca Hoffman is going to be our co-host for the next month. Okay. And she's going to do a whole lot of interesting things for us. So good morning, Rebecca.  

Rebecca Hoffman  2:14  

Hi, Ray, how are you?  

Ray Loewe  2:16  

You know, let me introduce you and I want to read something that I took off of your website or your LinkedIn post. You run a company called Good Egg Concepts. Okay, it's true. And it is, quote, "an economical, thoughtful, clever, endlessly curious consulting firm, focused on your goals and brand."  And so, I got a couple of quick questions for you. You know, first of all, tell us real quickly how Good Egg Concepts, how you got that name?

Rebecca Hoffman  2:56  

Well, Good Egg comes from many years ago, when I made my first email address when the internet was just getting started. And I asked a friend, what should my email handle be? And they said, well, you're a good egg, be the good egg at blah, blah, blah. And I became the good egg and the name never left, the good egg just stuck around and became the name of my consulting practice many years ago.  

Ray Loewe  3:16  

Well, it certainly is a unique brand. And it certainly is a clever brand and a thoughtful brand. And it's an I don't know about the endlessly curious though. Where did that one come from?  

Rebecca Hoffman  3:27  

Well, I think to your point, when you talk about the luckiest people in the world, one of the marks of a lucky person is someone who remains curious, which means always finding something interesting along the way in life. I think that's where that comes from.  

Ray Loewe  3:40  

Absolutely. Absolutely. And let me add one other thing. Rebecca is a storyteller. And she is one of my favorite storytellers. And she's a storyteller coach, I kind of stumbled on that one.  

Rebecca Hoffman  3:55  

That is true. That is true. You know, a good story. We need those.  

Ray Loewe  4:00  

Well, absolutely. And, a good story beats everything. And boy, do we have a good story for us this morning. Okay. And why don't I let Rebecca introduce Ari? And then I've stored up my questions. So you got to let me in there sometime.  

Rebecca Hoffman  4:19  

Okay, okay. Well, I would like to tell our listening audience that I would like to introduce Rabbi Ari Moffic, who is someone I've worked with and I call her a dear friend as well. She's currently the Director of Education at Temple Beth el in Northbrook, Illinois. But previous to that she's done some very interesting and kind of groundbreaking work in her rabbinate. She founded a concierge rabbinic practice and worked with people in an independent way bringing Judaism into people's homes and also worked with an organization that was devoted and dedicated to working with interfaith couples and interfaith families around the United States and actually in the world. And she's also the author of a book, which you can find on Amazon that's called "Love Remains a Rashanna Story of Transformation" about a family experiencing the growth and transformation of a child who is expressing themselves in a transgender way. And I know Ari so well, I have to say, I'm just thrilled to be able to talk with her this morning. You have a wonderful sense of humor and a wonderful look on life. And I think Ray, you know when we started talking with Ari, before this session, we were talking a lot about how did you become? And really, I think it's interesting to hear how did you choose to become a rabbi?


Rabbi Ari Moffic  5:44  

Well, thank you so much for having me. I'm so happy to be part of this conversation.  And I love hopeful, optimistic podcasts and stories. So I'm happy to be here. You know, it may seem like a very unusual career to become a clergy person. But somehow for me, it seemed kind of normal, I don't know. But you know, I grew up in a secular ish, Jewish Home in the suburbs of Boston.  

We belong to a congregation at a synagogue we went to. Fairly often we did all of the Jewish holidays, I was very close to my grandparents who were very ethnically, culturally Jewish. My uncle, my mom's brother is a reformed rabbi, I was very close with my Jewish Sunday school teachers. I was just one of those unusual kids who actually liked Sunday school, local thing turned me on. I loved thinking about God, the way the world works, ethics, philosophizing, and I did all the Jewish youth group things, I spent a semester of high school in Israel. And, you know, I just, I, that's just how the path unfolded. I knew I wasn't going to be a pulpit, congregational rabbi, for a lot of reasons. I'm sort of an introvert weirdly.

But I did a master's in Jewish education. And so I've based my rabbinate in it in education. And along the way, I've done a lot of lifecycle events, so that kids,  


Rebecca Hoffman  7:29  

Can you talk a little bit about your Rabbinate that  you are "Changing the Rules." I mean, Ray, is working very hard through this podcast and his other initiatives to help people see that when you change your rules, you can become the luckiest person in the world and feel like life has been extremely fulfilling along the way. How are you changing the rules? through your rabbinate I know, you work hard, and the space around inclusivity and this notion, we talk a lot about of what is a community? And how do we use that phrase, and what does that mean? Right? Talk a little bit about that.  

Rabbi Ari Moffic  8:03  

I mean, I think for a lot of us, life happens and because of just how things unfold, you get a lens that you might not have ever had, by training or on purpose kind of, and this is what happened to me.  I went to the reform rabbinical seminary, there's no choice there's one place to go. And you go through the whole program and truthfully, it's just very in the box and you do the classes and you learn the stuff.  

And you know, they turn you out to kind of be you know, to serve the how they I think they understand the mainstream of the people. But for me, what happens is that my oldest friend, I called her parents aunt and uncle growing up, although you know, they weren't really but with that so close we were.  She ended up marrying someone Catholic. She grew up Jewish, and I was in my last year of rabbinical school. She asked me to stand with her at her wedding. I wasn't allowed to officiate, but I sort of co-officiated, you know.  And through that process of meeting their priest, figuring out how they understood religion, what they imagined it would be in terms of raising kids what we were doing.  I found that so exciting and so modern, and so interesting, and such an honor to represent Judaism at that time that I just that's how my life ended up going. And luckily, I just landed in these places where that was celebrated. And so we my husband is also a rabbi. We ended up we started with at Chicago Sinai congregation which is a historic. It was a classical reformed congregation, which is a very interesting part of reformed Judaism where they did services almost all in English. They even had Sunday services. It was a very American version of Judaism. And they celebrated interfaith families, in fact, had a partnership with the fourth Presbyterian Church right down the street in Chicago there. And so we learned so much about interfaith weddings, counseling families.  

And then I ended up being an educator at a congregation in Wilmette, Sukkot, a little more, almost all of the children at that time in my religious school had a parent who wasn't Jewish, and the families wanted Judaism in their lives. And again, we had a very close connection with the neighborhood church. And this just grew for me, this era, this interest in these blended, layered interesting families, who had so I mean, talk about stories. Each family has such an interesting story and somehow, Miracle of miracles, Judaism is part of it. Yeah, I was like, Yes, that's me. I want to be there.  

Ray Loewe  11:01  

You know, and that you're talking about me here, you know that. So I was born, my father was Jewish, my mother was Catholic. I was raised as a Methodist because we had a Methodist Church on the corner of the street. And my parents thought that religion was an important thing. And so it's, interesting to hear you talk about this. I never felt the strength, I probably felt the strength more of the Protestant side of things in anything else. But this whole concept of interfaith stuff intrigues me and so go on I'm sorry, interrupt.  

Rabbi Ari Moffic  11:38  

Well, that's it. But you know, at some point, today, over 70%, of Jews partner with someone not Jewish, if you can survey as reform, you know, specifically reform, it's over 80%. So, the people, I've kind of spoken and we are in an open global society, and people fall in love. And so that's really made rabbis liberal rabbis, figure out how can they be there? How do they want to be there? What do they have to change ritual in order to be there and talk about boundaries and opening the tent? You know, that's where the conversation is.  

Rebecca Hoffman  12:17  

Can you talk a little bit also, by extension, about the recent Gallup poll, that showing the steep decline in American affiliation with what we could largely call organized religion or affiliation with a specific house of worship? But how does that dovetail with your experience as a disrupter in the rabbinic world and the, you know, Judaic interfaith world?  

Rabbi Ari Moffic  12:39  

Yes. You know, sometimes, I think rabbinic colleagues are worried that our participation is somehow allowing, you know, a new religion or a third religion.  That by saying yes to everything, and not really sticking to, you know, in a kind and loving way, kind of sticking to some boundaries, that there won't be anything authentically Jewish going forward, and we're going to kind of lose it to secularism, or to some kind of, you know, what they may say, is some kind of watered-down Judeo Christianity.  You know, be a good person, I don't see that. I don't see that I've never seen that. I think for a lot of families, ritual continues to be very important customs, their family traditions, the holidays, but they are doing it in different ways. And we see now from the Gallup poll, that the majority of Americans say that they're not connected to a specific bricks-and-mortar house of worship. That doesn't mean they're not spiritual. That doesn't mean they're not doing the holidays and life cycle events. The institutional religion of America has to change because the people have said it has to.  

Rebecca Hoffman  14:08  

So, Ray and Ari, that's really an aspect of changing the rules, right? It's an evolution.  

Ray Loewe  14:16  

Well, there's no question that the rules are changing. And this, especially in this sector, you know, one of the things that.  I didn't get a chance to do this last week, but I noticed that you and your husband did a podcast or a broadcast of some kind. About faith and religious traditions, and will they be relevant in the future? And I think what you're saying is they will be relevant, they're just going to be different.

Rabbi Ari Moffic  14:41  

Yes, yes, exactly. I think that's the key. We're not Yes. 

The narrative is changing, and we're going to have to run in,  you know, as religious leaders run and keep up to if we want to be part of it. Yes. The main thing we talked about in that webinar,

was kind of Our word of the day was fluidity. And we were talking about how fluid life is today, especially with this last year of the pandemic.  The fluidity between home and work, the fluidity between public and private, and even in terms of a Facebook account, you know where it is your work and your brand and your personal it all blends. It's all fluid.

Fluidity of gender, fluidity of roles, roles in life, and definitely fluidity in terms of religion, that people feel inspired by all different religious traditions. People have different gurus and leaders they follow.  

They are personally touched by different religious practices. We are in multicultural families. And so for mainstream organized religion, I think it's going to be important to embrace this fluidity with open arms. Okay, it's fascinating.

Ray Loewe  16:03  

It is fascinating. And, you know, one of the things that when I when we did our pre-interview, you talked a little bit about the state of marriage today to do you want to comment on that?

Rabbi Ari Moffic  16:14  

Well, yeah, I mean, I think young people see marriage in all different ways. I mean, for some people, it's still, you know, a beautiful covenant. Some people don't want to enter into the institution, and they live as partners. There's polyamorous families, there's all different kinds of families, there are single parents by choice, blended, layered.  I mean, even thinking about a nuclear family, whatever you're thinking of, in your mind, you know, expand it out, you know, because they're their families come in all shapes, sizes, ways. And that's another thing that impacts religion.

Rebecca Hoffman  17:00  

These expressions of diversity that emanate from this the core of the home, in a marriage or in the home, or the family. How do you help people feel connected in a world that it does appear to be so connected? And yet there's so much loneliness and such a sense of disconnection? What, as a rabbi, how do you help people feel connected and feel a sense of I mean, the wrong word probably to use is community?  But that's kind of the word we've always used. Where's that going?  

Rabbi Ari Moffic  17:27  

Yes, community, religious leaders use this word all the time, you know, especially on a website.  Join our welcoming community.  And it's, I think, it's because especially in Judaism, community is everything. We are a people, you know, more than almost anything, if you can even argue Judaism as a religion. You know, that's one piece of the Jewish civilization. But it's really about community and peoplehood. You can't pray with less than 10 people. You know,  Ruth's famous line, in the Bible, your people, will be my people, your God, my God, so people before God.

And it within more traditional orthodox communities, people kind of live together, they see each other at the kosher butcher, they see each other at the synagogue.  They have the religious day school and your lives are intertwined. And you just take care of each other in that religious sense where you are responsible for the community. And for more liberal Jews, where we're spread out in the suburbs, or in an urban area, community takes on a different way. Because when you think about who are your closest people? Who's someone you would you know, text if you've got a flat tire on the side of the road? Who can grab your kids? If you've got the stomach flu? Who are your core people in life? Who is your emergency contact? That's kind of your community? And then, you know, so does a synagogue or church kind of have to be a community? Do you need that from that? Or are people looking for something else from their house of worship, that's their way for education. That's their center where they can come do the services and holidays. But they, need that sense of community life. And then for some people, they do want that sense where they want to feel part of something bigger than themselves. They want to feel that their community works too, you know, make a change in their neighborhood, and even in the world. And so it's a balance, I think it's for sure a balance in terms of talking about it realistically of what a group a religious group can accomplish and be.  And knowing that with our busy, stressful lives, sometimes we just want to know that there's a place where we belong and that there are people who care about us.  

Ray Loewe  19:54  

You know, let's go back a little bit because you started out kind of in the traditional course of being a rabbi, I think.  You know, you had strong roots as to why you wanted to take this path. Now you've thrown into all of these things that are changing in here. How is this changing your course of action and the way you treat your job? And your career?  

Rabbi Ari Moffic  20:19  

Yes, you know, I've been the director of religious schools for many years now. And that's what I'm doing now. And so I think so deeply. And I really do the sacred struggle of figuring out what the point is, and why children come on Sundays for a couple of hours. And they come during the week to learn the Hebrew. And I really take very seriously what we're doing and what I'm sharing with the children.  And what, you know what this experience is about because I don't want it to be anthropologic. Where I'm saying, children, you know, the Jewish people, you know, did this thing, Shabbat, but, you know, we, what I'm telling you has nothing to do with our lives, and we don't do it in that way. And maybe you're thinking that's the right way to do it. But none of us do it that way. So we're all doing it wrong, you know, I'm very careful not to have that narrative. And to say, you know, some people have this practice, some people have this practice. And what we want to figure out is, Shabbat, let's say the Sabbath day is a gift for humanity telling us imploring us to rest. To stop. To put down the phones for a minute, to look at the people in your homes. And, you know, look at each other in the eye say, Hello, we live together, how are you. You know, and to have a good meal together, to go for a walk, to study something of interest. This is the gift of the Sabbath of Shabbat of coming together even in prayer or song, but it's going to look, differently, maybe then the textbook shows it. So I'm always trying to translate for a modern sensibility truly, and make sure that we're not alienating people but drawing people in.  

Rebecca Hoffman  22:08  

How would you tell our listeners, as they hear this discussion, how they might go about their life to find even greater fulfillment without judgment within their faith? Or what if they're of interfaith? And they're mixed?  

Rabbi Ari Moffic  22:22  

Yes. I mean, I think finding like-minded people and is where this community comes in. And some people are finding it online. And definitely, I think people yearn for in real life as well. So you know, don't give up there are so many creative things happening in religion.  Truly start-up churches, congregations meeting and all different interesting places. Third places, there are clergy, people who are of the people with you struggling to have meaning in life. And don't give up keep looking for like-minded people, and, you know, be vulnerable in it and try to, you know, figuring out how we are now as adults.  Not what we felt at 12 or 13, or 15, or, you know, 20 or whatever. But now, what do you believe about the world? Now? What do you believe is out there? How do you make sense in order of existence and our purpose in life? And, you know, if you care about those things, and that kind of is interesting to you, then there's going to be, I think there will probably be religious, cultural things that will speak to you.  

Ray Loewe  23:41  

Okay, we're getting near the end of our time, unfortunately, time flies fast when you're telling good stories, right, Rebecca? Right, absolutely. It does go too fast. So are you Do you have any last comments that you want to make that you want people to think about? Or sum up somehow?

Rabbi Ari Moffic  23:58  

I guess, just you know, maybe, if you have found a community, or a method, or a practice, that works for you, that's so wonderful. And if you're looking or searching and things haven't really clicked for religion, or you're unsure. You know, realize that things are changing they are. Be part of it, be part of the conversation, talk to religious leaders about where you are and what you're interested in. And, you know, what, we can't wait to meet people who are interested, because that's really, that will be key for us going forward.  

Ray Loewe  24:39  

Cool. Well, thanks very much for being with us. You certainly have made changes in your life, you're certainly are continuing to change in your life. And I think you've found the pathway to become one of the luckiest people in the world. So welcome to our community to Ari.  Thank you. Thank you. It was wonderful.  Ari you thanks again for being with us. And Rebecca and I will be back next week with another wonderful podcast. Showing another part of Rebecca's great storytelling, whatever. Okay. So thanks for being with us and we'll see you all again next week. Thank you.

Kris Parsons  25:21  

Thank you for listening to changing the rules, a weekly podcast about people who are living their best life and how you can figure out how to do that too.  Join us with your lively host Ray Loewe, better known as The Luckiest Guy in the World.