My grandparents on both sides were Orthodox Jews, and that was my earliest influence. I can still remember going to services at SouthEast Hebrew Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue in Washington, DC, with my grandfather when I was no more than 4 or 5 years old. We moved to the suburbs and my parents became founding members of Temple Israel in Silver Spring, a conservative congregation where I attended Hebrew School and where I celebrated becoming a Bar Mitzvah.
When Temple Israel closed, I started my journey for another spiritual center, which led to Temple Emanuel, a Reform synagogue in Kensington, Maryland. With the support of Rabbi Warren Stone and the then Cantor, Gershon Sillins, I studied Torah in earnest, and I became an active member of the congregation.
Eventually, I was given the opportunity to substitute at Friday night services for the cantor, and then, the fateful day, when I conducted a Friday night service as the substitute for the rabbi. These experiences inspired me to study to be a para-rabbi at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.
My training continued, and I was eventually ordained as a rabbi by Rabbi Joseph Gelberman (of blessed memory) of Rabbinical Seminary International in New York City. (Rabbi Gelberman is the one in the white robe, sitting behind me during our ordination ceremony).