Rabbi Ezra Balser

Chicago, IL

I grew up loving being a Jew and engaging in Jewish life. I was completely at home in my Judaism. I can see that not everyone had the opportunities and structures I did and they did not work in the same way for others as it did for me.  I want every Jew to feel at home in their Judaism, and that is why I became a Jewish educator.

When have you sojourned?

After high school I spent a year in Jerusalem studying and learning in a Yeshiva (house of study). That year was about finding myself as much as it was about finding depth and meaning in Jewish texts. Similarly, marriage has and continues to be a journey to understanding my evolving self, my wife and our ever deepening relationship.

What is/are your own community/communities like?

My community is still figuring out what we are. We eat, laugh, learn, cry and sing together.

Becoming a Jew means seeing yourself as having come out of Egypt with the Jewish people. It means loving and struggling with God, the Torah and our people, land and state. It means you’re never alone.

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

Vince Vaughn—I honestly just think we would enjoy each other’s company. And we could talk Chicago sports. Former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon z”l—his love for food is legendary and he has one of the most interesting political careers I have ever seen. My wife’s grandmother, Sima Elkayam z”l — I never met her, but she is the namesake of our daughter and all the stories I have heard about her: raising her family in Morocco and then Israel, the food she made, the tricks she would play and her laugh, I would love to sit down with her.