Vision Statement

Rabbi S. Robert Morais

Personal statement

“Make me a Sanctuary (a Mikdash) – a sacred place, so that I may dwell amongst you.” 

(Shemot / Exodus 25:8)

In the midst of the wilderness of Sinai, God challenged us to create a Mikdash, which I understand as sacred time and experience – openings for us to become aware of God’s presence in our lives. That challenge is as relevant today as it was so many millennia ago.

I am inspired to create ways for people to engage in Jewish life. I encourage people to ask themselves hard questions like “What does being Jewish mean to me?” and “How do I understand God?”  I want people to feel comfortable exploring these and other fundamental faith concepts and ideas in a safe and welcoming environment.

Our traditions and texts have so much to teach us. Throughout history the Jewish people have led the world in intellectual thought and moral behavior. Our historic commitment to lifelong Jewish study and practice has kept our minds sharp, our ideas fresh and our lives immeasurably enriched.

People come to synagogue for so many different reasons. Some to further develop their intellectual search for understanding and knowledge, others to engage in acts of Tikkun Olam / Repairing the broken in our world. Some seek out a synagogue to celebrate joyous life cycle events, while others look for the comfort of community during times of illness or stress. The opportunity to provide counseling to those in search of emotional healing, and to others who want to bring richness and meaning to times of joy, have been some of the most gratifying elements of my rabbinate. It is deeply satisfying to work together with people to create a transformational community of intellect and spirit, a Mikdash / a sacred place of meaning, support, and learning.

Congregations can bring people who share a common interest together in unique ways. When I was serving Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, I created a car club for my fellow classic car enthusiasts – this is the Motor City after all! One program I organized was “Drive-In Shabbat,” where members of the club brought their classic cars to Temple on Friday evening for Shabbat dinner, services and a chance to display their cars to fellow members and the congregation at large. The car club is an excellent example of the kinds of portals of entry we need to create for people who rarely, if ever, participate in Jewish activities. While certainly not a traditional program, the car club is a wonderful example of how to broaden the scope and reach of the synagogue. Our ever-evolving search to connect with each other and God through prayer and shared experiences enriches our lives, and allows us to see that we are part of a larger whole – the Jewish people.

Serving in different rabbinic positions throughout my career, both in congregations and other Jewish organizations, has allowed me to develop and nurture a diverse skillset. One of my greatest strengths is my ability to guide lay leaders and professionals to achieve communal success through goal setting and teamwork.  I have a keen ability to assess situations and creatively solve problems collaboratively.

Almost all Jewish institutions are trying to find a way to engage more and younger members. Our challenge is to find new and better ways for our institutions to be more inclusive and welcoming. People crave a sense of belonging, and are searching for ways to express their Jewish identity. Many interfaith families are looking for ways to strengthen their Jewish identity and more fully engage the non-Jewish members. I am seeking to be a part a congregation eager to envision and create Jewish experiences beyond the boundaries of traditional congregational life.

Torah is the heart and soul of Judaism, yet its complexity often makes accessing its messages seem intimidating or difficult. In Sim Shalom we read: “The Torah is a closed book, until it is read with an open heart.” When we engage in Torah study, Torah becomes a source of guidance and joy, bringing comfort, insights and possibility of deeper connections and relationships with others, whether that is in the midst of a life cycle event, an adult or pre-school program, or spending time with youth at camp, all are opportunities to open our hearts to the miracle of Torah – to make a Mikdash – a sacred time and place.

I am eager to be a part of exploring new and innovative worship, educational and programming opportunities. I am looking to partner with a congregation whose staff and members are both learners and teachers, and where the commandment to “teach our children” is an energizing reality.

My work and advanced training in the field of experiential Jewish education has taught me that Judaism is best learned through action. The commandment to make ourselves a Mikdash, a sacred place, gives us the insight that we must intentionally create opportunities for the sacred to be experienced. Our ancient sages have taught us that study without action is often meaningless. My teaching style reflects this experiential philosophy. I prefer to celebrate Shabbat with people rather than teach them about Shabbat in a classroom. I don’t teach Bar or Bat Mitzvah students about a Tallit or other ritual object; we hand craft our own Tallit, learn how to tie the Tzizit (fringes), say the Bracha, the blessing together and put them on.

Together, in a partnership of mutual respect and understanding, we will create a Mikdash — wonderful, engaging, sacred times and experiences.