Rabbi Avram Mlotek

Upper West Side, NYC

Why are you a Jewish educator?

I believe in the revolution of kindness our Biblical ancestors Abraham and Sarah started thousands of years ago in an empty desert. My great-grandfather was a Jewish studies educator in a small shtetl, a community outside of Warsaw before World War II.
I feel like I’m tapping into my own people’s history every time I teach.

When have you sojourned?

Living in Ethiopia out of a suitcase definitely felt like sojourning. That and I grew up speaking and singing in Yiddish, the language of the more than six million who perished in the Holocaust and of modern day Hasidim. Every time I sing a Yiddish song I sojourn to a different world.

What is your own community like?

Music festivals. Also, I helped found an organization when I finished rabbinical school that empowered pluralistic rabbinic couples to use their homes as convening points for Jewish life, drawing in folks in their 20s and 30s. Together, these Base communities celebrate the Jewish calendar, learn and engage in acts of service and that’s all part of my jam.

What does becoming a Jew mean to you?

Something akin to the teaching in Pirkei Avot: “Know from where you come, and where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give an account and reckoning.”

Three people you’d like to invite to Shabbat lunch, and what you’d like to talk about together.

Nina Simone, electrifying songstress, Shmerke Kacgerginski, partisan fighter during World War II, Yiddish poet, and collector of hundreds of Yiddish wartime songs, and Rebbe Nachman of Bretzlov, Hasidic master who encouraged ecstatic song and dance and believed that the liberation from Egypt was ongoing. Our conversation would be in song.