My favorite Hebrew School conversations have been with atheist middle-schoolers. A 12-year-old girl wanted to know how the big bang could possibly be reconciled with the existence of God. A 13-year-old boy enjoyed pointing to historical inaccuracies in the Bible. “The Torah can’t be right!” he exclaimed. “Camels came to ancient Israel way later than the Bible says they did!!”

I mostly respond to these children by asking them questions. “What difference would it make to you if the Bible were written by human beings?” “What do you think came before the big bang?”

I love talking to these teenagers because they tend to be serious about figuring out what they believe; they show an early commitment to discerning what they want their lives to be about.

All of us, from atheist middle-schoolers to those of us navigating the ends of our lives, are on journeys to discover what matters most to us. I hope to foster synagogues in which people are comforted, challenged and celebrated as they do that work.

George Altshuler will receive rabbinical ordination from The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in May 2023. He graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 2011, and is originally from San Francisco, CA. Prior to rabbinical school, George worked as a journalist and a teacher. He enjoys following the Golden State Warriors, spending time outside with his wife Kate and studying Jewish theology. George believes synagogues can be sites for personal growth, loving connection and collective transformation.