That's Rabbi Daddy To You - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Skip to main content

That's Rabbi Daddy To You

Main Content
Friday, May 27, 2011

Rabbi Heath Watenmaker, a recently ordained rabbi from HUC-JIR's Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles, writes:

I imagine not many people can say that their first act as a rabbi was to become a father, But I can. 

In his ordination address, Rabbi Ellenson spoke about ordination as a personally and spiritually transformational experience. Having worked and studied for the last five years (or 7 counting the Jewish Communal Service program and 11 counting my time taking classes at HUC as an undergraduate at USC) with this day in mind, I had long imagined the awesome power of this day and spent a great deal of time considering what it would mean on a personal and spiritual level to take on the mantle of rabbi. What I didn't know was that as I sat listening to these words that morning wasthat my wife, then 9 months pregnant, was sitting twenty rows behind me quietly entering the beginning stages of labor. 

Near the end of a very long day, my beautiful son, Ilan Theodor, was born at 11:19 PM. In keeping with the Jewish theme of the day, he measured 6 lbs. 13 oz. and 18 inches tall. Everyone was healthy and happy and incredibly tired after spending an entire day in what can only be described is an extended state of great joy and euphoria. To think that my time at HUC - where I met and fell in love with my wife, engaged in soul-stirring learning, and grew as a leader of my community - would end with the birth of my first child, on the day of my rabbinical ordination, seems as if it was somehow pre-determined. 

On the morning of the day Ilan was born, I stood with Rabbi Ellenson, wrapped in a tallit I bought in Jerusalem during my first year of rabbinical school, as I was welcomed as a rabbi among the Jewish people. On his eighth day, Ilan will be wrapped in that same tallit as he enters the holy, ages old Covenant between God and the Jewish people. What an incredible and yes, transformational, week.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.