I turned 80 a half year ago and in another half year, the 50th Anniversary of my Ordination as a Rabbi by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion will be upon me. Thus, what’s more than appropriate to put some few words to paper.
As a young man, I already knew that I only had two really critically important decisions to make in this life. All else was commentary. And both were of equal weight. The first is obvious. What was I going to do with my life? In what occupation, profession or endeavor would I invest the enormous number of hours and the vast quantities of energy needed to create a meaningful and successful life? As a necessary corollary – will this activity provide a livelihood so that I could marry and raise a family? This brings me to the second decision – the choice of a mate. With whom was I going to share my life, raise a family and live on into old age? In my case, the second decision preceded the first.
Next year I will mark 50 years in the Rabbinate by reading Torah before my colleagues and friends at the NAORRR Convention in January and be called as an aliyah at the CCAR Convention in March. But in between these two events, the Bride of my Youth, Joyce and I will celebrate our 57th wedding anniversary in the very city of Miami Beach where we were wed!!
What flowed from both of these decisions was a life, a whole life filled with an abundance of blessings; few curses; and plethora of rewards; few punishments; immense satisfactions; few disappointments. For all these, I thank The Holy One, Blessed Be He.
And now, for the Record, some Highlights:
I served only two congregations following Ordination and the earlier one was absorbed by he later one. Thus, at my Retirement Service in June 1996, there sat families who attended my Ordination in June 1962! I took great pride in being the rabbi of 3 and even 4 generations of the same family. Even now, although I have been retired 15 years I still keep in touch. The congregations were:
Temple Beth El of Laurelton, Queens, NYC
1962 – 1970 175 families
Temple Israel of Jamaica, Queens, NYC
1971 – 1996 450 families average
I was awarded Life Tenure by Temple Israel in 1980, and at my Retirement, the Temple Sanctuary was named the Rabbi Ronald Millstein Sanctuary in my honor.
I am grateful to my colleagues of years gone by for electing me President of the Greater New York Association of Reform Rabbis. In this capacity, I also served a term on the Executive Board of the CCAR, our national organization. During my earlier years in the Rabbinate, I was the President of the Long Island Association of Reform Rabbis and served on the Board of Governors of the New York Board of Rabbis.
While the work was demanding beyond belief, and the hours were long, sometimes too long, I gained enormous satisfaction from my role as a congregational rabbi. It was awesome to serve in such a responsible position as a leader of the Jewish people, interacting with so many, young and old impacting them for good, I pray, through the multiple roles of teacher, preacher, presenter, priest, and counselor. To me, my rabbinic career despite – despite any difficulties or shortcomings that there may have been – that career took me on a glorious journey.
As an added bonus along the way, I had the privilege of being a mentor to future rabbis, cantors and educators. They are all well along in their careers, enriching our movement immeasurably. Some became and remain good friends.
And to top it off, I had the rare privilege of standing on the bima of Temple Emanuel of NYC at the Ordination Service of 1993, giving a charge and blessing to my own son, Rabbi Jordan Millstein and my daughter-in-law, Rabbi Paula Feldstein. This may have been a first in the Reform Movement.
As a result of our wedding these 57 years ago, Joyce and I have three grown, married children:
Pamela and David Auerbach
Rabbis Jordan and Paula Millstein
Drs. Beth and Ron Wish
Each couple has two children. So we have six delightful grandchildren:
Natanya- age 20, Ariana- age 17, Eve- almost 15, Sarah- age 11, Moriya- age 10, Auriel- aage8.
GRANDCHILDREN – God’s blessing in Old Age