1:05 PM AKDT, March 15, 2011
Rabbi Anthony Fratello
Other job experience: former assistant regional director, Union for Reform Judaism.
Other community posts: Member, ethics committee at JFK hospital, Atlantis, Fla.; president, Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis; board member, Jewish Community Center of the Palm Beaches; board member, Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.
Education: Degree in history from Pomona College, Claremont, Calif.; master's degree in Hebrew letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati.
Personal: Age 38. birthdate. Born in Long Beach, Calif.
Family: Married to Rabbi Joanna Tract, chaplain with Hospice of Palm Beach County. Two children.
Have your studies in history affected your rabbinate?
Absolutely. My focus was on Greece and Rome. I'm a firm believer that what we see in modern world is a direct result of that history. A thorough understanding of that history is essential to understanding the modern world.
What's the one most mistaken impression about Judaism?
That Jews somehow think they're better than everybody else. We talk about being Chosen People. But it just means being different, having a unique life and destiny to live the special goals and ideals that God laid out for us.
The other thing I find is that a lot of people confuse personal observance with piety. I tell people that there are a lot of wonderful Jews who never step foot inside a synagogue, and there are a lot of miserable Jews who come to synagogue all the time. Just acting out the rituals doesn't necessarily indicate how righteous someone is.
How do you like to relax?
I like to swim. And I like to golf, but I'm a terrible golfer and I cheat. At least I always have a good day.
I've started to experiment with making simple furniture. I've made a couple of bookcases. I'm building a credenza, which might turn out to be something decent.
What book have you been recommending lately?
Joel Chasnoff's book "The 188th Crybaby Brigade," about his experiences as a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Force. It presents a very unromantic image of the reality of serving in the Israeli army. It's troubling and challenging, and I think that's good.
Favorite vacation spot?
Ogunquit, Maine. When my wife was a little girl, she used to vacation there with with her family. We've vacationed there many times. It's a New England seaside town with friendly people and beautiful scenery. Life just melts away around you.
Favorite TV shows?
Modern Family. It's funny as hell. Very few shows are laugh-out-loud. This is one of them. I also like "Hawaii Five-O." It's done so cheesy, it's delicious.
My all-time favorite is "Dead Poets Society." I like the image of the young people growing up and setting out to define their own path in life, in a world where they're not always able to do so.
If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
I would maybe ask God for something: To help us not be so afraid. Life is a scary thing.
What do you wish people understood about you?
That I'm not perfect. Sometimes I think people expect me to be, and they're disappointed.
What's the most important thing you've ever learned?
That the truth is the truth, no matter who the speaker is. There's a phrase in Pirke Avot that asks; "Who is wise? The one who learns from everyone." We can learn something from everyone, even if it's an example of what not to do.
Motto, or favorite scripture verse?
"There is nothing new under the sun," from Ecclesiastes. My studies of history have reinforced for me that even though the problems seem so dynamic and different, they're no different from what our ancestors faced.
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