Rabbi Mike Rothbaum, the new spiritual leader at Congregation Bet Haverim in Toco Hills, ended 2022 with a full program of Chanukah activities. They began with what was called a “magical night of storytelling” on the Saturday before the holiday, including an evening at the Atlanta Hawks Chanukah celebration, a public celebration of Chanukah on the BeltLine and, on the final Sunday, a hike and menorah lighting at Arabia Mountain in DeKalb County with the Ma’alot Jewish community.
It was a busy week for the Reconstructionist congregation, but that was just fine for Rabbi Rothbaum, who came to the synagogue from an independent and unaffiliated community in Acton, Mass. this summer. He sees the holiday as an important time for each of us, as Jews to bring light, both physically and spiritually into the world.
“The most powerful thing we can do is to be public and to shine bright and say we’re here and we are not going anywhere. And we stand for hope, for justice, for freedom, for every spirit and for the spirit of G-d that keeps us, that sustains us in every generation. We’re not giving up on that no matter how hard some may try to silence us.”
Since coming here, Rothbaum has worked particularly hard to engage the synagogue in becoming more actively involved in working for social justice. He is particularly interested, he says, both as someone who is in a same sex marriage and the leader of a congregation that was founded for the LGBTQ+ community, to have the synagogue celebrate the full spectrum of gender identity.
“I said this on our High Holidays, the job of a rabbi is to teach Torah, build community, and to make justice or help make justice. And so, these goals include deepening our Torah learning and our implementation of our Torah values as we grow to understand and integrate those values as we understand them.”