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Tifereth Israel Synagogue: redemption through good works and God’s grace

I am not the shabbat police, the kosher police, or the prayer police.

Mathew Marko
Mathew Marko

Tifereth Israel Synagogue

  • Contact: 6660 Cowles Mountain Blvd., San Carlos 619-697-6001
  • Membership: 240
  • Pastor: Rabbi Mathew Marko
  • Age: 56
  • Born: Brooklyn, NY
  • Formation: University of Florida, Gainesville
  • Years Ordained: 7

San Diego Reader: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?

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Rabbi Mathew Marko: It’s how I view Judaism in general: We’re not called upon to be perfect. We are flawed, beloved human beings. We are being called upon to be a little bit better today than we were yesterday. If I’m doing a little bit better today, I’m doing well and moving in the right direction. Unlike other faith traditions, we do believe in merit and that your actions matter. We’re not hopelessly beyond redemption—that we can only get redemption through God’s grace. We can do it through good works and God’s grace. God knows I’m not perfect; he made me as I am. But God does want me to be better. I’ve been given tools to be better—Torah, a tradition, good teachers, common sense and a moral compass. I’ve been given something that animals don’t have — a sense of right and wrong, and it’s up to me to listen to that sense.

SDR: What is the mission of your synagogue?

RM: To be an open, safe and inclusive place for people to find their voice in community, in prayer, in Jewish tradition, in a place that’s warm, accepting, open and inclusive regardless of age, education background, socio-economic status, gender identification and orientation. Some people pray and some don’t. There are a million ways to be part of this community. Some come for the social aspect; some come to play Mahjong. Some come because they want to talk to God. There’s an old joke about Rabinowitz and Bernstein, two old men who’ve come every morning for fifty years to prayer. One day, a young boy comes to them and says, “Mr. Rabinowitz and Mr. Bernstein, I admire you so much. Your belief must be so strong!” But Bernstein says, “I don’t even believe in God.” The boy looks at him with surprise and says, “Then why do you come here every morning? I see you every single day.” Bernstein replies, “Yeah, Rabinowitz comes to talk to God, and I come to talk to Rabinowitz.” And that’s OK here. I am not the shabbat police, the kosher police, or the prayer police. When someone asks me what Jewish law says about something, I say, “Well, some say this and some say that and some say another thing.” Well, which is it? I’ll tell the person, “I don’t know. Try them out and see which one you find meaningful. Then come back and we’ll talk.” That’s the approach I take with people here.

Place

Tifereth Israel Synagogue

6660 Cowles Mountain Boulevard, San Diego

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

RM: There’s no one Jewish take on it. Some believe in a heaven-type situation; some, like the Kabbalists, believe in reincarnation; and some simply believe your energy gets mixed back into the cosmic soup which is God who is one with everything. I don’t know — it depends on which day you ask me… Judaism doesn’t focus on the afterlife because we know we’re alive now. I’m reasonably certain I exist. What happens later? If I take care of my life now, I won’t have to worry about the next one. Other religions focus much more on the afterlife, and it’s all about getting there. I’m in no rush to get there. I’d like to hang out here for the next 40 or 50 years, and then? I’ll find out soon enough what’s happening next.

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Mathew Marko
Mathew Marko

Tifereth Israel Synagogue

  • Contact: 6660 Cowles Mountain Blvd., San Carlos 619-697-6001
  • Membership: 240
  • Pastor: Rabbi Mathew Marko
  • Age: 56
  • Born: Brooklyn, NY
  • Formation: University of Florida, Gainesville
  • Years Ordained: 7

San Diego Reader: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?

Sponsored
Sponsored

Rabbi Mathew Marko: It’s how I view Judaism in general: We’re not called upon to be perfect. We are flawed, beloved human beings. We are being called upon to be a little bit better today than we were yesterday. If I’m doing a little bit better today, I’m doing well and moving in the right direction. Unlike other faith traditions, we do believe in merit and that your actions matter. We’re not hopelessly beyond redemption—that we can only get redemption through God’s grace. We can do it through good works and God’s grace. God knows I’m not perfect; he made me as I am. But God does want me to be better. I’ve been given tools to be better—Torah, a tradition, good teachers, common sense and a moral compass. I’ve been given something that animals don’t have — a sense of right and wrong, and it’s up to me to listen to that sense.

SDR: What is the mission of your synagogue?

RM: To be an open, safe and inclusive place for people to find their voice in community, in prayer, in Jewish tradition, in a place that’s warm, accepting, open and inclusive regardless of age, education background, socio-economic status, gender identification and orientation. Some people pray and some don’t. There are a million ways to be part of this community. Some come for the social aspect; some come to play Mahjong. Some come because they want to talk to God. There’s an old joke about Rabinowitz and Bernstein, two old men who’ve come every morning for fifty years to prayer. One day, a young boy comes to them and says, “Mr. Rabinowitz and Mr. Bernstein, I admire you so much. Your belief must be so strong!” But Bernstein says, “I don’t even believe in God.” The boy looks at him with surprise and says, “Then why do you come here every morning? I see you every single day.” Bernstein replies, “Yeah, Rabinowitz comes to talk to God, and I come to talk to Rabinowitz.” And that’s OK here. I am not the shabbat police, the kosher police, or the prayer police. When someone asks me what Jewish law says about something, I say, “Well, some say this and some say that and some say another thing.” Well, which is it? I’ll tell the person, “I don’t know. Try them out and see which one you find meaningful. Then come back and we’ll talk.” That’s the approach I take with people here.

Place

Tifereth Israel Synagogue

6660 Cowles Mountain Boulevard, San Diego

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

RM: There’s no one Jewish take on it. Some believe in a heaven-type situation; some, like the Kabbalists, believe in reincarnation; and some simply believe your energy gets mixed back into the cosmic soup which is God who is one with everything. I don’t know — it depends on which day you ask me… Judaism doesn’t focus on the afterlife because we know we’re alive now. I’m reasonably certain I exist. What happens later? If I take care of my life now, I won’t have to worry about the next one. Other religions focus much more on the afterlife, and it’s all about getting there. I’m in no rush to get there. I’d like to hang out here for the next 40 or 50 years, and then? I’ll find out soon enough what’s happening next.

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