Meet Rabbi Shimon Moch, our spiritual leader

     Rabbi Stephen Fisher Moch joined the Hebrew Congregation on Dec. 1, 2008, becoming our seventh Rabbi since our founding. Here is more about his spiritual journey and his background.
      The Spiritual Journey of Stephen F. Moch
     Rabbi Stephen Fisher Moch, also known by his Hebrew name, Shimon Aryeh ben Ze'ev ve-Kayla, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and raised in West Hartford, Connecticut. He received his B.A. from George Washington University in religion and spent his junior year at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received a Master's in Hebrew Letters and his Rabbinic Ordination from the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio.
     Rabbi Moch also studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Tampa General Hospital and served there as a chaplain for eight years. Rabbi Moch returned to Hebrew Union College in 2003, where he was awarded his Doctor of Divinity, for having completed 25 years of rabbinic service.
     Rabbi Moch has served in Congregations in Guatemala, Central America; Blytheville, Arkansas; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Springfield, Illinois; St. Petersburg, Florida and Tarpon Springs, Florida He was elected Rabbi of the Hebrew Congregation of Saint Thomas and began serving here on the first of December, 2008.
     Rabbi Moch has acted as an ambassador of his congregations and of the Jewish community throughout his rabbinic career. He has been active in interfaith, intrafaith, and civic affairs.
     He has held posts as president of the clergy associations of Winston-Salem, NC; Springfield, IL; and St. Petersburg, FL.
     He helped found Helping Hands of Springfield, IL, a downtown shelter for the homeless, and served as the personnel chair of the Board of the Central Illinois Food Bank. He played a founding and active role in Congregations United for Community Action in St. Petersburg, which worked on behalf of local issues of social justice. Rabbi Moch instituted a Soup Kitchen in Congregation B’nai Emmunah of Tarpon Springs, Florida, which, together with a partner Congregation, Mt. Moriah AME Church, continues to feed 60 to 100 hungry people each Sunday evening.
     He served on the Boards of the Pinellas County Jewish Community Relations Council, the Tampa Bay Chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice, the Florida Holocaust Museum, and the American Society for Yad Vashem. In 1996, he received the Gates of Jerusalem Israel Bonds Award. Rabbi Moch also served on the Professional Review Committee of the Pastoral Care Department of Tampa General Hospital.
     Rabbi Moch has a passion for learning about and teaching Judaism. He tries in his rabbinic work to help congregants claim authority for their own Jewish learning and living. His most rewarding work comes when people let him into pivotal times in their lives and allow him to journey with them through their greatest trials and triumphs.
     "A Personal Testament
     In high school, an active involvement with the religious school program of my home congregation, its youth group and the North American Federation of Temple Youth nurtured my desire to explore Judaism. At that time I began to think seriously about the rabbinate.
     That resolve strengthened in me throughout my university studies. I spent my junior year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. That experience became a seminal event in my life.
     Over the years, my sense of calling to the rabbinate deepened and changed. I always wanted to learn about Judaism, involve myself with Jewish causes and share my excitement with others.
     I have found that people seek spirituality and desire to tap into a reality that goes beyond themselves, which we call God. I derive a great sense of reward from helping to expose my congregants to the sacred dimension of life through intentional living, learning and worship, and by helping them to see the sacred that exists in their lives already.
      I also derive great personal reward simply by walking down the path of life with my congregants and friends with all of their joys and sorrows. My desire and purpose is not to fix any problems they may have, but simply to be with them in their difficulties and their triumphs, and to give them a sense that God stands with them in the same way. When congregants confess to me their most heartfelt regrets, I listen to them and may offer them guidance. I do not judge them.
     I truly believe that I could be happy doing almost any kind of work, but being a rabbi proves particularly satisfying to me because it requires me to engage people and challenges me to touch their lives in significant, if sometimes subtle, ways.
      The variety of tasks I must perform as a rabbi keeps me engaged with people, and challenges me to reach beyond myself in finding ways to teach Torah and touch others, that they might feel the Presence of God in their lives.
     I want to strengthen the Jewish family and personal relationships with God through Torah learning and living. At the same time, there can be no purpose to Jewish living if it does not engage the world, building bridges between peoples of diverse background and belief. Only by uniting the disparate pieces of this amazing creation can God become One and God’s Holy Name become One.
     Outside of my congregational responsibilities, I have enjoyed my work as a chaplain for a number of reasons. It exposes me to the spirituality and spiritual needs of other people of diverse backgrounds. That has taught me how to listen for and affirm the theology and belief system of others and not try to impose my own on them. Exposure to other spiritual systems informs and strengthens my own faith and helps me to understand God’s purpose in creating a world of unending diversity.
      The Clinical Pastoral Education that I undertook helped me to strip away all of the dross of my personae and penetrate to the real “me” dwelling behind masks and piles of over-packed baggage. Knowing myself better helps me separate my own personal issues from the issues of others and more effectively be present for them and provide them effective spiritual care.
      I feel very grateful for the self-knowledge that allows for growth, which Clinical Pastoral Education has given to me. That knowledge will serve me well in every aspect of my life, in all my interactions with others.
     In my capacity as a “spiritual leader,” I hope to help others claim a measure of spiritual authority in their own lives and the confidence to share that with those around them. I feel very comfortable with, and skilled at, conducting services, preaching and teaching. At the same time, I want to train others to claim spiritual authority for themselves.
      I want to enable them to acquire a level of comfort and personal charisma so that they in turn can lead others in worship, share a devar Torah or personal religious message, pray at the bedside of a friend who is ill, and call God’s presence into their own family home.