Thursday, May 28, 2009

Beginnings and Ends

Shalom to all of our friends and family,

There are moments where you sit back, put your hands in back of your head after a long journey, looking back on your accomplishments, and even your failures. In my opinion, no matter what journey I have been on, whether it was college, my years in Israel, or the various positions that I have served as a Jewish educator and spiritual leader, I have always ended my journey with a sigh of accomplishment and pride. In fact, I have a ritual every time I finish a journey at a place. At Ramah Darom, I would wait until the whole camp was empty, walk to the dam that overlooks the lake and camp, and sit there alone, staring at the serene camp and remembering what was; and then I would dream about what would be.

Sometimes I share this moment with others, like after Yom Kippur services at the Fitzgerald Hebrew Congregation, where I sat in the empty sanctuary with Phil Perlis, Pension Kaminsky, and Jerry Heller, three men who keep this small congregation of Jews together and alive and who taught me what it means to be a Rabbi. As we sat there together, we talked about the year past and the great history of the congregation. Just a couple of weeks ago, one of my mentors and friends Rabbi Yoni Kaiserblueth and I stood on UF Hillel’s balcony overlooking the campus during my last visit as the rabbinic intern. Staring out at a bustling University Drive in Gainesville, we talked about the students who we impacted and who impacted us. And both of us looked to the future.

It is so important for us to know where we have been in order to appreciate where we are going.
So where are WE going? As many of you know, Alissa and I are South Florida bound. But we have another announcement: I have accepted an offer from a congregation in Boca Raton called Shaarei Kodesh where I will serve as the Rabbi of the congregation. Alissa and I had the pleasure of visiting the congregation where I preached, and taught, and met so many interesting people. The congregation is truly an amazing place with much talent and desire to make a difference in the world. Of course, we are looking to grow so if you know anyone who is looking for a welcoming and vibrant community in West Boca, please give me their information, or give them my information, or tell them to visit our website,

We feel blessed to have this opportunity especially in South Florida, a place that both Alissa and I love very much and we feel that it is an area with great potential for Jewish growth and development.

These past few weeks at JTS have been simply amazing. I have visited my favorite spots at JTS, places where I created life long memories with dear friends, places where I was challenged and challenged others with our rich tradition. I thought about the good times at JTS, the amazing amount of Torah that I have learned, and the difficult times as well.

Thank you to my family, my mentors, my friends and colleagues, my wife Alissa, and of course, to God who has brought me to this point.

We are so excited for the opportunities that await us. T.S. Elliott once said, “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

We come to the end of our time in New York, but it is the beginning of a whole new adventure. We will always cherish these years and those who we shared our lives with.

Please keep in touch and we hope to speak to you soon.

Rabbi David Baum

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ha Rav David Zalman Ben Yitzhak Shlomo v'Rachel Esther

I was ordained today at JTS as a Rabbi of the Jewish people. Details to follow.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Dear friends and family,

It has been so long since we have all talked and we hope that you can forgive us. As many of you know, I (David) am graduating from rabbinical school and I (Alissa) will be completing my internship for my PsyD program officially making me a Doctor (next year). So after next year, you can call us Rabbi and Dr. Baum.

People used to joke that a Rabbi's kid and a Psychologist kid is going to need major therapy...well, its funny that they mention that because we are expecting! Alissa is about 4 months pregnant and we are expecting our new delivery on August 4th. We also found out this week where we will be next year for Alissa's internship...drum roll...and the winner is: South Florida. This has been a pretty high stress time for us and we are so glad to know where we will be next year.

On a personal note (this is David talking), I have gained a new found appreciation of Alissa's professional aspirations when I read the matching letter she received from her school (I will put it under our signature). As you can read below, this year recorded the highest amount of people applying for internships and a drop in sites offered because of the economic downturn. Alissa was fortunate enough to get one of her first two sites that she listed which was not such an easy thing this year. Alissa is an amazing person and I know that she will have a long and fruitful career as a talented Psychologist.

We are excited to return to South Florida where we will have lots of family and friends, and of course, grandparents for our little one. I (David) will be looking for a job as a Rabbi, teacher, and/or preacher in South Florida so if you hear of anything, please pass my name along. My blog below has my resume, some newspaper articles that I have written, my senior sermon on You Tube, and more goodies.

We want to thank all of you for your support over the years and we look forward to seeing many of you more often in South Florida. We have to say, we will miss New York and the lifelong friends that we have made, but sunny South Florida sounds really good right now as we are freezing during this cold winter.

All the best,

David and Alissa Baum

We are pleased to report that 2,752 applicants were successfully
matched to internship positions. A total of 45% of all applicants who
obtained a position matched to their first choice internship program,
approximately two-thirds (66%) received one of their top two choices,
and nearly four-in-five (78%) received one of their top three choices.

A total of 846 applicants were not matched to an internship position,
while 299 positions remained unfilled. This is the highest number of
unmatched applicants to date, slightly exceeding the 842 unmatched
applicants from the 2007 APPIC Match.

Compared to the 2008 APPIC Match, the number of registered applicants
increased by 66 (1.8%) to a record 3,825 applicants, while the number
of internship positions decreased by 7 (0.2%) to 3,051 positions. It
should be noted that on September 30, 2008, initial 2009 Match
registration figures showed an encouraging increase of 243 registered
positions as compared to the same date in 2007. However, this
increase was not sustained over time as the economic downturn worsened
in the months leading up to Match Day, resulting in positions being
removed from the Match due to a loss of (or uncertainty regarding)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Words of Torah - Find your inner Nachshon

A good friend of mine has been unemployed now for about 5 months and has had some personal issues as well. To add insult to injury, he lives in New York city, his roommate has moved out, and now he has to pay for an expensive apartment until he finds a subletter, something that he has not been successful in doing for the last couple of weeks. Years ago, this situation would not have happened. My friend would have found a job, and if he needed someone to sublet his apartment, it would have snatched up on Craigslist in 5 minutes. Yesterday, my friend had to do something that he felt was shameful: he asked his parents for financial help. When he told me this, I did not feel sorry for him, in fact, I was proud. His sense of shame, although misguided, reveals something in his character. My friend is a proud person, an independent person. My friend is an adult and his goal is to depend on himself. My friend got me thinking about the power of a free mind and the choices that we make when we are faced with difficult circumstances.

I look at the Exodus from Egypt, specifically the splitting of the Red Sea, as a good model for my rabbinate. Most people want to look at me as Moshe Rabenu (Moses), their teacher and spiritual leader, and I want to push them to look at themselves as Nachson Ben Aminadav. According to the Torah, Moses held out his arm over the sea and the Lord split the Red Sea. But the Rabbis had a different take on the story. In a famous midrash, the Israelites are standing in front of the Red Sea with the Egyptians to their back. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place. In this story, the sea had not yet split. Moses stood with his arms up, and nothing was happening. The people were standing there waiting for their leader, the one they look to as their father to save them. But nothing was happening and I’m sure the Israelites were worried. They are standing on the cusp of freedom, and yet this situation is all too familiar to them: powerlessness and despair.

But one man changed this. Nachshon Ben Aminadav, not Moses, walked into the water, he took power into his own hands and took the first steps. Suddenly, the nation followed him. According to the midrash, this is when the Red Sea split, when a normal guy led his brothers and sisters into the unknown. The Israelites were re-born when they walked through the Red Sea. They were beginning their path towards freedom, where they took power into their own hands.
This legacy is what motivates my friend, and it is a legacy that I intend to impart to my people.

Our success as a people has come from normal people doing amazing things, not from one charismatic leader at a time. My goal is to help our people find the power that they have, especially during the bleak times that we live in today. Few of us can be Moses, but all of us have the ability to be Nachshon Ben Aminadav, and in many ways, he is more important.
We are in between a rock and hard place, and we are at a crossroads. How will we walk out of the sea, as free people, or slaves? This is our challenge for the foreseeable future. It is time for our people to realize the power that they have and use it for the betterment of our people, our communities, and the world. It is time to organize our communities, to build relationships, and to build power. This is my mission in life, to help the Jewish people find what is already in them: Nachshon Ben Aminadav.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Senior Sermon

The senior sermon is a rite of passage of sorts for Rabbinical students at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Every year, each senior Rabbinical student has the honor to teach his or her community in the seminary synagogue in the form of a sermon. I hope you enjoy the Torah that I taught to my community. It is just the beginning of the Torah that I hope to teach for years to come.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Articles that I wrote from the Shpiel

You can find some of these articles on, the only student run Jewish newspaper in the country. As a campus rabbi at UF Hillel, I have the privelage of writing articles once a month for them. Please click on them to read and please post some feedback.

Story about me from National Ramah

Another Inspirational Ramah Story
David Baum and Ramah Darom
Interviewed by Rabbi Mitch Cohen on June 29, 2007

David Baum is a 4th year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and has spent nine summers at Camp Ramah Darom. As a freshman at the University of Florida in the late 1990's, never in his wildest dreams did he think that he would pursue a career as a Jewish professional, much less as a rabbi! Yet that is exactly his current career path and way of life, inspired mostly by his years of experiential learning and leadership at Camp Ramah, and the impact of his mentor and friend, Rabbi Loren Sykes.

Last summer Dave was the Rosh Tefilah, helping with tefilah education for all the campers and staff, as part of Ramah's overall efforts to teach prayer skills, and to instill a deepened sense of spirituality. Over the years Dave has also served as a counselor, a rosh edah, director of staff learning, a yoetz (parent liaison and staff trainer), and a Judaica teacher.

During the inaugural summer of Ramah Darom, Dave's childhood friend from his home town of Plantation, Florida, Keren Eliav, attended camp as a counselor. She said that it was an "amazing experience," and convinced a number of her friends, including Dave, to come and work at camp the following summer. Dave recalls:

The summer of 1998 was incredible. I loved being at Camp Ramah as a counselor. Then I really got hooked on Ramah when I was chosen to represent Ramah Darom at the Weinstein Institute for Counselor Training, when we got together in the winter with counselors from all the other Ramah camps. This really made me realize that being at Ramah was helping me to become part of something much bigger, affecting young people all over North America.

After that experience, Dave considered going to Ramah Canada, as he had met some wonderful people who attended the camp in Utterson, Ontario. "But Rabbi Sykes asked me to come back as a counselor for Gesher, the oldest edah, and I couldn't turn him down. Eventually he asked me to be a Rosh Edah, an experience which completely solidified my desire to pursue a career in Jewish leadership."

Motivated to become a Jewish educator, Dave, who had been planning a career in the business world, knew he would be disappointing his father by coming back to camp year after year. In 2002, after a "difficult telephone conversation with his dad, he wrote his dad a passionate letter explaining his reasons for returning to camp and taking on this leadership role:

Dear Dad:

You didn't seem too happy with the conversation we just had. I gave more thought to why I want to return to camp and therefore postpone my college graduation. In essence, becoming a rosh edah at camp is about making a difference in children's lives. I'm going to help give many children a sense of Judaism that some have never gotten, and I'm going to help my staff develop leadership skills, and hopefully instill inspiration. I want to bring happiness and Yiddishkeit to these kids because that is what you and mom have taught me throughout my life. Although this is going to be hard work and long hours, and although I'm going to be one of the youngest division heads ever, I am doing this gladly. Some of my friends have parent role models who have instilled in them greed and selfishness, and they don't treat others with respect. Yet you have taught me better values, and that is why I want to share these values with others. So I guess you can look at this as a blessing or a curse. If delaying my graduation makes school a little bit harder for me, but in the process I get to bring happiness and values to children at camp, then I will gladly take on that responsibility. So thank you for instilling within me true Yiddishkeit and wonderful values. I hope that in the future, I can give this gift to my own children, just the same way you have instilled it within Sandy, Richie and me.

Your son,

Dave reflects back on this letter as a key moment in his life, when he was willing to take what he thought was the right path, and try to convince his parents to support this decision. Five years later, Dave is one of the most senior leaders and educators at Ramah Darom, and in just a few short years will be ordained from JTS as a Conservative rabbi.

The other key Ramah moment in Dave's life occurred when his grandfather, Frank Baum, came to visit him at Ramah. Dave became quite emotional as he recalled the time.

My grandfather was a survivor of the Holocaust, but he never ever, in all my life, spoke about his experiences during the war. After spending Shabbat at camp with me and my younger sister, Sandy, who was a camper, my grandfather stunned us by saying that he wanted to talk about his experiences in the Holocaust to the children at camp. The word "camp" had deep associations for him, and the stark contrast between the "death camp" he had experienced and "this camp of unbelievably vibrant Jewish life" moved him to speak, for the first time, about his experiences during the war.

As if all this isn’t enough, Dave also met his wife at Ramah Darom. Dave and Alyssa Solom began their relationship at camp, and are now part of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of Ramah marriages, many of which are catalogued at And who was the officiating rabbi? Loren Sykes, camp director, of course!

The Ramah experience worked its magic on Dave Baum, who I believe will be a fantastic leader and educator throughout his career. The tension between choosing a career with the greatest possible financial rewards and a career in a helping profession works itself out differently for every young person. Simply being aware of this tension, and making young people aware of their potential for spiritual, educational, or other types of leadership, is one of the true signs of success for any Ramah educator. Thanks to the nurturing mentorship of Rabbi Loren Sykes, and the powerful experiences at Ramah Darom, Dave Baum will be helping and educating others for many years.