November 27th: 45 NFTY Events

While driving home from Chicago for Thanksgiving, my fiancee and I played a fun little game, counting the number of NFTY events each of us had attended. Between our time as participants and staff members in the youth movement, we learned that I have been to 45 youth group events and she has been to…

November 20th: WITHOUT an Apple a Day

This weekend, I took my phone to the Apple Store to get a new battery. I didn’t realize it going in, but I was required to hand over my phone for a 90 minute procedure, only to come back and find that they hadn’t been able to get the old battery out, and that they…

November 15th: Sharing the Love of Judaism

Over the past few days, I attended a conference discussing the journey of conversion to Judaism by those who choose to join the faith. We examined curricula for Introduction to Judaism courses, met with a panel of converts to learn about their experience, and worked with rabbis to learn their process for working with their…

November 6th: Waiting for Terror

I’m embarrassed to say that, in the wake of yesterday’s shooting at a church in Texas, my first thought was not for the victims of yet another act of terror in this country. My first thought was to wonder if the person who walked into the church and killed over 20 people was white. The…

November 5th: Calm in a Storm

As I sit down to write this, a storm is raging in Cincinnati. The rain is hammering the roof above my head, and the rumble of thunder permeates the evening. I’m in my home. I’m not going anywhere. I’m safe and I’m dry. And, when all of those conditions are true, I’m struck by how…

November 2nd: Why Sports Matter

The world of sports is an enormous industry in this country, and is often chastised for being out of focus with reality. That’s a fair claim, at times, but whenever we get to the idea that sports don’t really matter, I slam on the breaks. Last night, we watched the Astros win the 2017 World…

October 18th: The Emptiness of “Thoughts and Prayers”

Visiting my student pulpit this weekend, I introduced the mourner’s kaddish, the prayer for those thinking about the death of a loved one, by bringing my congregation’s attention to those who have lost their lives to natural disasters in recent weeks. Fires have ravaged the west coast, while the memories of those lost to hurricanes…

Rosh Hashanah Morning Sermon 2017

Below is a transcript of the sermon given by Austin Zoot at Temple Oheb Shalom in Sandusky, Ohio on September 21st, 2017. When the year 5776 began two years ago, I was living in Israel, beginning my rabbinical school journey. During that year, I was learning about the basics of our faith, the history of our…

September 14th: Queen of the Hill

I’ve never liked Jemele Hill very much. She likes to talk about basketball and football, while I’m much more of a baseball and hockey fan. She and her co-host, Michael Smith, have taken up the mantel of discussing race as a lens for sports, and it just hasn’t been done as well as I would…

September 6th: True American Greatness

We were promised in 2016 that Donald Trump would “Make America Great Again.” At the time, plenty of people wanted to answer a few questions. During which period was the greatness Trump wanted to return to? What is it that makes America less than great right now? How do we do this exactly? It is…

September 5th: What is a “Traditional Family” Anyway?

This weekend, I took the bait, and clicked on a link for a political personality test. It was a 70 question quiz that was going to show me how my political beliefs fit onto a spectrum of ideology. One of the questions stopped me in my tracks. I was asked whether or not I believe…

September 3rd: What Lakewood Wouldn’t Do, We Have To Do

Religion can be a way for the world to use a set of morals and ethics to right the wrongs that plague us as a society. Religion can also  be one of the dividing facts that forces us to confront our different identities and struggle between people. When religious institutions interact with the world around…