Double Booked: A Rabbi’s Balancing Act



By Rabbi Larry Sernovitz

Daddy. You don’t have to go back to the synagogue.”

I can’t possibly count how many times I have heard this from my five year old son Sammy. He loves the synagogue. He was born into a synagogue family. At his Bar Mitzvah, many people will be able to say they attended his bris, which was also at the synagogue and was open to all members. He went to preschool in the synagogue and now he attends religious school. But, when Sammy looks at me and pleads with me not to go back, it always has the same effect on me. Am I being a neglectful father? Will he grow up one day and say that I was never there for him when he was young? And now, my 22 month old daughter has learned the language from my son, albeit in different words. She says to my wife, “Daddy home?”

At Temple Emanuel, I am appreciative to work in an environment that understands the importance of family time and that encourages me to be home for dinner, to spend the time I need with my family. But, at the same time, being a congregational rabbi is demanding and there are many nights my wife calls me at the synagogue to sing the Shema with my son as he is going to bed. These are the moments I crave to be there with him, holding him tight and kissing him goodnight. But, the reality is that there are many times this is simply not possible. I hope in my heart of hearts that Sammy, along with my daughter Daniella, understand.

My wife works for a major global consulting firm and has the luxury from working at home. Over the years, she has transitioned to a position where there is less travelling but the job is still demanding. However, her company allows her to work from home, which gives her the flexibility to attend to the needs of our kids when there is a snow day or when one of them, or both of them, is sick. But, the job still needs to be done and she feels the stress of making sure it does. There are many nights, and weekends, when she is working late after the kids are in bed because she, in many respects, operates as many one-parent homes do when I am at the synagogue. Weekends are not normal by any stretch of the imagination. And, on top of all this, my son has Familial Dysautonomia, one of the 19 Jewish Genetic Diseases. There is much to do on a regular basis to keep him healthy and Becky takes the majority of the burden on her shoulders. Unfortunately, there are many days when he is not well and that just adds to all that needs to be done.

At the end of the day, family time is extremely precious and sacred as well. We believe that we do our best to make it work and we share many moments of pure joy. But, this is from our perspective. I can only hope that one day my kids will look back at us as parents and say that we did a good job balancing our personal and professional lives and that they appreciate the life we were able to create for them. Isn’t that what we all want? Only time will tell.

Rabbi Larry Sernovitz is a Rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, NJ. He is a member of the Rabbinic Leadership Council of ARZA (Association of Reform Zionists of America) and represents them as a member of the board of the American Zionist Movement.

Comments are an important part of the conversation. Share your thoughts in the comments sectionThis blog is part of a special RACBlog series, “Double Booked: A Conversation about Working Families in the 21st Century,” dealing with the many issues that affect working families, and featuring everything from personal stories to policy analysis. Visit the Double Booked portal to read more posts, or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #doublebooked.

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3 Responses to “Double Booked: A Rabbi’s Balancing Act”

  1. Harvey A. Sernovitz Reply February 21, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Larry,no need to worry. I have never seen more devoted, loving and effective parents than you and Becky. It’s a tribute to you both that Sammy and Daniella are so obviously secure and balanced. They know how much they are loved and that nothing is more important to you than they are. And they return your love so generously and joyfully. I couldn’t be more proud.

  2. Rachel Laser

    Thank you for helping all of us lay people understand that with all of the glory of being a rabbi comes true sacrifice. Thanks to you and all of our rabbis for turning your congregants into your “other family” and congrats on finding a way to make it all work!

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  1. Double Booked: Inspired by White House summit, Rabbi Sernovitz calls for change | Fresh Updates from RAC - July 21, 2014

    […] You can read Rabbi Sernovitz’s first Double Booked blog here. […]

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