Read Rabbi Caine’s Biography
July 25, 2018
I grew up in Philadelphia, the third son of a Conservative Rabbi/Bible scholar father and a philosopher mother. Determined to be a professional philosopher, I attended Princeton University, because the Peterson's Guide listed it as the top college for philosophy. I became puzzled in my freshman year, however, when I found the readings in my religion and psychology classes far deeper than those in my philosophy classes, yet my philosophy professors laughed this off. I completed my degree with a bridge major in philosophy and religion, studying Jewish mysticism, Jewish philosophy, and the Anglo-American philosophies of language, mind, and science. I wrote my thesis, "The New Moral Realism," on how moral and religious statements can be considered as "true" as scientific ones, especially in the works of Aristotle and Wittgenstein.
After graduation, I lived for two years on a volcano on the island of Java, travelling to remote areas of Indonesia. I returned to the U.S. to spend two and half years at Harvard University completing my Masters in the general philosophy of religion and in Jewish Studies (focusing on Midrash, Kabbalah, and Philosophy). I then spent ten years at Stanford University working on my doctorate in the philosophy of religion and Jewish thought.
While at Stanford, I won the Jewish Community Federation’s first annual $10,000 Diller Prize for best Jewish Studies teacher in the Bay Area, as well as the International Academy for Jewish Philosophy’s Essay Prize for my scholarly essay on the thought of Moses Mendelssohn. I taught widely in the Bay Area, including stints at Cal State in Hayward and San Jose. While working on my dissertation on "The Nature of Practice," my doctoral adviser, Dr. Arnold Eisen, admirably left Stanford to take the helm of the Conservative Jewish seminary in New York City. Agreeing with my adviser that the proper place for philosophy is actual communities trying to live it, not virtual communities discussing it theoretically, I left Stanford at the age of 40 for the Conservative rabbinical school in Los Angeles where I was ordained.
I led a Conservative synagogue in San Diego for 11 years, was President of the San Diego Rabbis' Association, and in 2018 moved to Ann Arbor, MI, where I am the senior rabbi of Beth Israel Congregation. Along with my wife and two daughters, I am an avid vegetarian and solar power user. (If you get a chance, read my essay, "Does God Love a Tesla?") I am also a passionate advocate of Conservative Judaism, which is an approach to Judaism that demands an attention to the full history of Jewish law (and not just to what one rabbi tells you is "the right way" because that's what they learned --that's like letting one person in Texas tell you what the Constitution "really says" about gun rights), sees spiritual maturity and psychological health as intimate partners, and demands that one's values be conscious and integrated into one's ethical living.
Most of my job is trying to help people. Most of it is little things like listening, gently guiding, or giving someone a hand. (Another rabbi once called me "the rabbi who will change your car oil.") Sometimes people ask me, "Rabbi, what can I do for you?" The answer is simple. There's no greater gift to me than to let me share my thoughts with you, in person or by podcast. From the bottom of my heart I thank you!