You're Going to Be a
by Rabbi Roger Ross
That was the first question my parents asked when I told
them I was enrolling in the New Seminary and would be
graduated and ordained as an interfaith minister, with
Reverend before my name and M.S.C. after it.
What's a nice Jewish boy like me doing in a place
like that? Isn't my Judaism enough? Is my heritage so
awful that I would turn my back on it? What had my
parents done to deserve this?
Was I going to convert?
It took a great deal of effort, time, and patience on
my part before they finally began to understand.
Everything flowed from the statement "Never instead
of; always in addition to."
No, Mom and Dad, I am not turning my back on my
heritage. I am deepening my understanding and using it
as a benchmark against which I can reflect the knowledge
of other faiths. Yes, Mom and Dad, there were things I
was taught as
I was growing up that left me unsatisfied and vaguely
aware that I wasn't complete. Did being one of the
Chosen People necessarily mean that no other people
could reach out to God? Did being a Jew mean that I had
to keep other faiths at arm's length? Was I going to be
contaminated by my interest and, heaven forbid,
involvement in other religions?
That's what I was led to believe—that it might even
be a sin to participate in any other religion's services
or even step into any others' houses of worship.
I thank God that I've had the chance to learn
differently—to find out not only that could I study
and participate in other faiths, but that, along with
acquiring a fine
higher education, I could become a person who could
minister to others. I could reach out to those who might
want and need me as an expanded being who wants everyone
to heal and grow whole.
I began to explain to my parents by quoting Geoffrey
Parinder, from his book World Religions: From
Ancient History to the Present:
To study different religions need not imply
infidelity to one's own faith, but rather it may be
enlarged by seeing how other people have sought for
reality and have been enriched by their search.
Knowledge leads to understanding, and understanding
to tolerance of people with different viewpoints. "
In this light I began my exploration, and to reveal
my discovery before I talk about the journey, I found
that there is, indeed, but one God—one God who is
worshiped by thousands of different names, but one God.
The most powerfully positive statements about religion
have always been nonsectarian and have always led to the
same conclusion--worship God in whatever way you may,
but worship God.
As the historian Arnold Toynbee said:
The true purpose of a higher religion is to radiate
the spiritual counsels and truths that are its essence
into as many souls as it can reach, in order that each
of these souls may be enabled thereby to fulfill the
true end of man. Man's true end is to glorify God and to
enjoy Him forever.
I continue to use my family's questions and reactions
as a baseline against which I measure my growth in
spirit and knowledge. I have observed their fear that
Judaism would lose another son to something else—indefinable
but out there waiting. Well, it hasn't happened.
This year, I have had the opportunity to learn of the
Quran from my Muslim brothers and to learn of its
similarities to the Jewish scriptures. I've had the
opportunity to sing and dance with Sufis and reach a
level of bliss as warm
and satisfying as any I've found with my Chasidic
And finally, when I was able to let go and be a
Muslim and worship Allah with Imam Wall, I found the
same joyous and profound connection to God that I've
always found as a Jew.
And without a doubt, for me it was one God, the same
with many names. And so, my path into religions and
practices has led to deeper realizations and higher
levels of God consciousness.
I have taken shamanic journeys and have met my power
symbols in the form of the mountain lion and the fox,
and I've found that they exist to show me ways to more
deeply understand the plan of the Creator, my God. I
have learned to care, even more deeply than before, for
this planet, which is the creation and gift of my God.
When I celebrated communion with my friends who are
Christians, I found I could be a Christian for the
moment and experience the grace, love, and communion of
the Trinity. And I know that the Trinity, for me,
represents all the aspects of the one God I worship. I
have been a Roman Catholic and a Methodist and a
Unitarian, and each time all I found was love and
acceptance and an awareness that God loves me—no
matter what anyone calls God.
One of the most moving experiences I have yet had
came while I was attending an interfaith conference at
the City of God in West Virginia. In this amazing place
founded by the Hare Krishna movement, I had the
opportunity to face the oldest prohibition of Judaism,
that of the existence of idols. What I learned was that
no statue represented God, no object represented God;
there was only worship of God
(Krishna) the Most High. If anything, the comparable
would be the mezuzah, which serves as a constant
reminder to worship the one God in all God's glory. The
names and ceremonies and forms have no ascendance over
one another—love of God
is all there is, because love of God is love of self,
and only when I love myself can I love all of God's
Searching for the truths of love of myself has
followed the adjoining path of searching for the truths
of religion in the seminary—the path of psychological
and philosophical healing and wholing. Each level we
studied of each discipline had an effect that opened
another space for me to heal myself, so that I might be
able to help heal all I will reach out to in my
The reading list is no mere compilation of titles; it
is a pathway to integration and wholeness. I learned
from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in On Death and Dying,
how to be with the dying and how to counsel the living
in the presence of death. From Ram Dass and Paul Gorman,
who wrote How Can I Help? I learned to serve
rather than impose. A Course in Miracles taught
me that God's plan is love and that my
separateness from God was an illusion created by me
and really doesn't exist at all. The Tibetan Book of
the Dead helped me strip away my fear of the dying
process—the time of transition. All the readings on
Neuro Linguistic Programming prepared me to see, to
really see, the people I'm in session with and to be
able to focus on them, understand what they are really
experiencing, and to make a positive impact on their
In conjunction with my work at the seminary, the
healing and wholing work I'd begun has grown in such
depth and intensity as to reach levels of which I was
completely unaware when I began. I have studied shiatsu
(Japanese acupressure massage), and I've been using it
in my work with people's blocked energy. I had never
before accomplished the results that I reach now with my
clients or the inner
knowledge that I myself recognize. Now, because of my
willingness to unconditionally love and serve the person
I am working with, I achieve more results, which are
more rewarding for us both. The Shekinah, the indwelling
God, now leads my hands and guides my work.
As a Third Degree practitioner of the Radiance
Technique (Real Reiki), I have been privileged to work
with some very high levels of Universal Energy. The work
I do every day is immensely powerful, and my grasp of
this transcendental science expands constantly. However,
I have never experienced such a growth in my intuitive
understanding of the meaning and use of this energy as I
experienced when my heart was opened to the
consciousness of God within and without—God, who
empowers all of us to remove the blindfolds we ourselves
have imposed and see all the glorious possibilities and
all the paths we thought we could find.
Now, when I use the Radiant Energy for healing and
wholing it is whole, as am I because of the presence of
So, Mom and Dad, I hope this helps you to understand
that I am all that you wished I should be and even more.
I am a Jew with a deep love and respect for my history,
traditions and religion. I am a Jew who is so sure of
his relationship with God that I am willing to reach out
and minister to people of all faiths. I know who and
what I am and will be eternally.
I thank you for giving me life and starting me out on
the road of Judaism, and in the spirit of the heart of
our religion, I'd like to present Interfaith to you
I Interconnected and Inner connected with God
N Noble and Nice and not Needy and New to life at its
T Tender and Truthful and a Teacher to be Trusted
E Enthusiastically and Effortlessly loving
R Really one with my God and my people
F Fair and Faithful and Full of love and compassion
A All-encompassing, Alivening, and Aware
I Intelligent, with an Integrated Jewish Identity
T Thoughtful, with a Thirst for knowledge of my
H Holy and Healthy and Helping others to Heal.
And finally, I leave you with the letter J, which
stands for joy. Never before have I been so joyous.
Never before has my life been filled with such meaning.
In this time of incredible changes in my life, I am
filled, not with fears and doubts, but with joy.
These are the words of Joyce L. Boice, from her
writings "At One with All Life":
Choose Joy and your life will flow with abundance.
Choose Joy and all obstacles shall become as sand.
Choose Joy and all partings shall be as breathing spaces
before a new beginning.
Choose Joy and all currents of change shall be as a
Choose Joy and all distrust shall flow like clouds
dispersed in wind.
Choose Joy and the earth shall rejoice.
Choose Joy and your soul will reach its perfect form.
Choose Joy and the Song of the Cosmos will fill your
Choose Joy and your being will radiate the love of
So be it, for love is made manifest through Joy.
© Copyright 2004 Rabbi Roger Ross. All Rights Reserved.
Rabbi Roger Ross received his Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Philosophy from New York University, and received his Certificate in Spiritual Counseling from the New Seminary in New York City. Rabbi Ross was graduated from and received Smicha (Rabbinical Ordination) from the Rabbinical Seminary International.
Rabbi Ross is the Executive Director of the Rabbinical Seminary International as well as the Rabbinical Fellowship of America, International. He is a Board member of the International Federation of Rabbis, and is the Bursar and a Dean of the New Seminary where he teaches the course presentation on Judaism. Rabbi Ross has a private practice in Marital Counseling as well as Spiritual Counseling for couple and singles.