Rabbi Nachshon Carmi
The first person to recognize my rabbinic potential was my Israeli 2nd grade teacher. She chose me to play the rabbi in the ceremony of receiving our first copy of the Torah. I received a fur hat and a fake beard and sung to my students the Aleph-Bet song. I did not pick up on that vision until many years later with the help of Lawrence Stibbards, a Canadian minister and the director of Shalom Mountain retreat center, who insisted that I will become a rabbi.
My first exposure to American Judaism was when I came on an exchange program at age 15 and lived with a Jewish-American family for five months. At 18 I enrolled in the Israeli army. Later I earned a B.Sc. degree in medicine from Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva. After 3 years of medical school, I realized that it’s not the path for me because I was more interested in talking with patients than in treating their diseases.
I had a one-year stint in a horticulture graduate program of Hebrew University, but my soul wanted something else. Like many Israelis, I turned eastward and went to India on a spiritual journey, seeking higher/deeper consciousness.
My time in India was transformative. Afterwards, I landed in Mt. Airy, in Philadelphia, the birthplace of Jewish Renewal, but I was not ready to join. After several years in Philly I enrolled in a residential program at Shalom Mountain, a Christian ecumenical retreat center in the Catskill mountains.
It took a year of living there for it to become clear to me that I needed to find my way back to Jewish life. I am forever indebted to Rabbi Michael Lerner and his book Jewish Renewal that opened up the intellectual door for me.
Leaving Shalom Mountain I landed in the living room of Rabbi Marcia Prager who, after five hours of kvetching on my part, agreed to admit me to her Jewish Renewal class entitled “The Magic School Bus.” While living in Philadelphia, everyone I met was telling me about how Reb Zalman impacted their lives, so I decided to go on a pilgrimage to Boulder.
After I earned an M.Ed. from Widener University, I decided it was time for me to enroll in the AOP. I moved to Jerusalem to study at the Pardes Institute. I was inspired by Reb Zalman’s suggestion that we immerse ourselves for a year in ortho-practice. There I met my wife Ilene. As soon as the year ended, I asked her out and within seven weeks we were engaged. Two kids and five years later we relocated to Boca Raton, FL and I rejoined the AOP.
I see my future rabbinate as an act of service to the Jewish people.
All this would not have been possible without the support of my parents.
I am currently on the journey of healing from cancer. You’re welcome to follow my journey and reflections on my CaringBridge blog.