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 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…

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…

July 11th: What Mega Churches Have to Teach

Growing up, I was fascinated with Joel Osteen. The televangelist was able to reach an audience on a weekly basis that blew me away, and his words were able to have an impact that was so incredibly powerful and moving. I had always wondered: what could we, as the Jewish community, learn from seeing his…

July 6th: Call Your Knesset Members

Last week, the Israeli government suspended plans to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, or Western Wall, in so doing ostracizing a large portion of the non-Orthodox Jewish population in Israel and abroad. After plans were put aside, Jews around the world, most notably American Reform Jews, voiced their significant displeasure, noting their…

June 13th: The Jewish Whiteness Question

I took a Southwest flight for the first time this past week. I experienced the fierce battle that is finding an aisle seat with a priority spot in the B section, and waited, while the rest of the plane filled up around me. Finally, a man and his 10-year-old daughter sat down in the two…

May 21st: The Year in Israel – A Year Later

One year ago today, I got on a plane and returned home after my first year of rabbinical school in Israel. At the time, I remember the feeling as though I had just experiencing something too big for words, too profound to be understood in a day or a week or a month. I knew,…

January 4th: We Aren’t Going Anywhere

In 2016, hate was a concept. We talked about it a lot, but for me, I had the luxury of talking about hate directed at other people. I didn’t have to deal with the feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and fear myself until my own community was targeted yesterday. Hebrew Union College has served as the…

December 31st: The World Can’t Settle When It Comes to Israel

It seems that, over the past few years, the United Nations has made it a habit of putting forward a piece of toothless legislation meant to slap Israel in the face, only to have the American Jewish population cry out in protest. The American government has gotten quieter and quieter in their support of Israel,…