Rabbi Gordon Tucker
I grew up in a home whose strong Jewish observance flowed from generations of traditional practice (on my father’s side of the family) rather than from a deep familiarity with the texts of Judaism. It provided a solid foundation in both home and synagogue life. But through a quirk involving my birthday and the age requirements for first grade in the public schools, my parents ended up enrolling me in a school that was not bound by those rules and could admit me to first grade a year earlier. It was an Orthodox Yeshiva; there I studied for the first 8 years of my education, and there I began to develop a life-long love of the Jewish texts, especially Talmud.
I went on to high school at the Bronx High School of Science, from which I graduated in 1967 (along with 4 other current members of TIC!). The month before that graduation was the anxiety-ridden month leading up to the Six Day War in Israel, and it remains one of the memories most seared into my consciousness. Members of my generation will never really forget the sense of utter vulnerability that we justly ascribed to Israel at that time. It distinguishes us, I think, from those born and raised in later times, when it was far less plausible – at least on the surface – to imagine Israel as facing a threat of non-existence. My higher education was pursued first at Harvard College (A.B. in Philosophy and Mathematics, 1971). The love of Jewish learning that was implanted in me early on became conjoined in those years, through Jewish activism, to a new commitment to accomplishing things for the Jewish people. This led me to Rabbinical School at Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), where I was ordained in 1975. Overlapping with those studies was a continuation of philosophical studies, pursued at Princeton University (Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science, 1979).
Shortly after ordination, I began teaching Jewish philosophy at JTS, and I have done so, with just a few years off, ever since. The extraordinary opportunity to become the academic Dean of the Rabbinical School came my way in 1984, and for 8 wonderfully rich years, I had a prominent hand in the training of more than 200 rabbis. As fulfilling as those years were, they also gave me a much better understanding of just how critical the rabbinic vocation can be when it intersects with the lives of real people in Jewish communities. This led to my coming to Temple Israel Center (TIC) in August of 1994, through a confluence of intuitions. I had a sense, which had grown stronger over several years, that it was time to take on the work of building a vibrant Jewish community. Most of the rabbinical students I had taught for nearly twenty years had gone on to do just that, and I came to believe that it was not only right to do what I had prepared others to do, but also that the congregational rabbinate would be a significantly more spiritual life. At the same time, the congregation had to have an intuition that it was worth taking a chance on someone 19 years out of Rabbinical School who had no direct pulpit experience. I am deeply grateful to the leadership and membership of TIC for having been willing to enter into what surely must have seemed an uncertain venture. I am even more grateful for what I have learned from nearly everyone who has been part of this remarkable community for this quarter of a century. And I am beyond grateful for the professional partners I have had here at TIC, and for the rabbinical fellowship with which I have been blessed, though the other synagogues in our city. Whatever has been achieved here, we have all achieved together.
Along the way there have been additional chapters and adventures. In 1979-80, I was a White House Fellow (having been urged to apply for that by my most important mentor, Rabbi Gerson D. Cohen), and I served as a Special Assistant to United States Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti. I served as a member of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly for 25 years. And I have served as Chairman of the Board of the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel, a cause that remains extremely dear to my heart and mind. But the greatest adventure of all has been creating and nurturing a family. My children (Ethan and Ariela, Becky, and Micah and Jenna) and my grandchildren (Eden, Yitzhak, Yoav, and Jaxon) are all special projects of love and mentoring. And my 34+ years of marriage to Amy is the foundation stone on which everything else stands. It is because of the love we share each day that I can say that coming to TIC was the second best decision that I have ever made.
Amy came to Temple Israel Center with husband Gordon Tucker, daughter Becky and son Micah in the summer of 1994, and since that time, Temple Israel Center has been an integral part of her life. Used to a minimum of attention, having grown up with three older siblings, Amy was thrilled with the warmth, automatic acceptance and excitement with which she was welcomed into the TIC community. It has been a gift for her to get to know so many synagogue members and their families in small settings at the house - Shabbat dinners, new member events, informal get-togethers of a variety of synagogue constituencies and annual back yard Shabbat pool parties. It is inspiring for her to see how engaged so many members of all ages are, and she feels privileged to be part of their lives.
The move from the Bronx to White Plains was smooth professionally in that Amy could continue her work at The New York Botanical Garden. There, Amy managed restoration and new construction projects throughout the site as Assistant Vice President of Capital Projects. She oversaw the restoration of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and the building of the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, Leon Levy Visitor Center, Mertz Library, Steere Herbarium, and the Café/Ballroom facility. Previously, she received a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1968, a Ph.D. in Art/Architectural History from Boston University in 1976 and an M.B.A. from New York University in 1981. She also worked in the field of preservation of historic districts and oversaw capital projects at The Waldorf-Astoria, itself a landmark. Since 2002, Amy has worked at Levien & Company, where she now manages projects for non-profit organizations. Specifically, she has served as Owner’s Representative for institutions around NYC, including the Abraham Joshua Heschel School, Steinway Showroom, Visitor’s Center at the Tenement Museum, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, and the French Institute/Alliance Française. Currently, she is managing construction of the German International School New York in White Plains. She was pleased to be on Building Committees for the addition of a new Sanctuary and classroom spaces at TIC as well as the new Solomon Schechter School campus in Hartsdale. She enjoys her service as one of the regular Shabbat Gabbaim, and, on holidays, as a Bat Kohen while she continues to co-host synagogue events at the home.
Amy comes by her skill as a people gatherer naturally, as one of her favorite endeavors is to make sure her widespread group of siblings, children, grandchildren and cousins all get together whenever possible. This happens at holidays – Seder celebrations, Sukkot dinners, and the annual Hanukkah party - and during vacations – on Outer Banks beaches and in the mountains of Arizona. Amy also enjoys swimming, yoga, dance and active hiking and takes pleasure in mentoring those interested in the fields of architecture, art, engineering and construction, a role she hopes to expand over the coming years.
Amy is truly grateful for this honor and the unique opportunity Temple Israel Center has given her to focus on others, learn from their rich and diverse backgrounds and form meaningful friendships and connections with so many remarkable individuals.