“Here,” Noah said, pulling over the first of many framed photographs; his desk was a small, very crowded museum. “I like to surround myself with artifacts,” he told me, laughing. Nearby was a tallis with tzitzit he made himself, along with a whole collection of prayer books. This all tracked with someone who appeared to be intentional about infusing his existence with higher meaning and a sense of the sacred. On Zoom, we discussed Shabbat practice, feasting on locusts, and life with a baby. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jason: Mazel tov on being a new dad! Any favorite aspects of early fatherhood?
Noah: I’m kind of surprised how fun it can be to hang out with someone who is seven months old…who doesn’t know how to talk but is still really expressive…who doesn’t know what anything is but is still delighted to reach and put it in her mouth. I love to laugh together—that’s not something I expected to be doing so early.
What brought you to the Bay?
I lived in New York City and got tired of the grind there. At the beginning of Covid, an uncle I was really close with died. I volunteered to pack up his house in San Francisco; it felt really important to spend that time there. He lived in the Inner Sunset, near the ocean, so I was going to Lands End and driving around in his old beat-up Miata, loving life.
At one point, I was in my uncle’s house listening to Sam Harris’ Waking Up app, which featured a few poems by David Whyte, an ecstatic poet I’ve loved since I was a teenager. There was this one poem called “Sometimes” that made me feel like I should stay. So I did.
Such a concrete moment of inspiration. What happened next?
I started volunteering at Urban Adamah. I was getting more into Torah study and observance, deepening my Jewish awareness, and it was around that time that I met this wonderful garden wizard of a man named Nir Berezovksy. I have these wonderful memories of sitting across a patch of carrots at Urban Adamah with Nir where I would talk to him about Torah, as in the actual text, and he would talk to me about the Torah of microorganisms and soil and plants and roots and sugars. We were blowing each other’s minds. I became a resident at Urban Adamah, got really close to my roommates, and that’s also how I met Annabelle, my partner. That community ended up feeling like and becoming our family.
You work as the Digital Editor for Moment Magazine, which covers “Jewish news, ideas and culture” and counts Elie Wiesel as one of its founders. Take us into your life as an editor.
Basically, I manage our website. My time is split between assigning stories, editing other people’s work, and writing my own pieces. For example, right now I’m working on an article about if locusts are kosher, so I recently interviewed Dror Tamir, who’s convinced that locust protein is going to feed the world. I’m also working on articles about the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute and other interesting topics.
You mentioned earlier that Tamir sent you a bunch of samples. What does a locust taste like?
We had a whole tasting party with my Urban Adamah crew. There were whole locusts, which were dried; locust gummies; and a mix for a locust protein shake. The whole locusts were very crunchy and reminded me of a dried mushroom flavor. They’re pretty good! I had a jar of them on my desk while I was writing my first draft and got hungry. I thought about it, pulled out a locust, and I chomped it down. It gets less weird after the first one. I mean, it’s still weird, but it’s not prohibitively weird. It’s the only kosher insect.
What makes a locust kosher?
Leviticus mentions that all swarming winged things are prohibited to consume except locusts. Well, and these four kinds of grasshoppers, but…it’s complicated! You’ve got to read the story.
Super fun that you can jump down these rabbit holes. Sanctioned insects aside, are there any rituals, traditions, or holidays within the greater universe of Judaism that you feel a special affinity to?
On a family level, we do Shabbat candles every Friday and also havdalah [a ceremony marking the end of Shabbat], which is something we find really meaningful with the spices and wine and songs. On a personal note, I’ve started davening every morning. I do it with tefillin and this family tallis that I restored. I learned how to spin wool so I made the tzitzit myself. I have this little “God’s corner” here, which Reb Zalman, the founder of Renewal Judaism, suggests making for yourself. That’s my davening zone.
What called you to deepen your practice?
Reb Zalman talks about how a lot of modern Jews observe Shabbat, or at least mark Shabbat in some way, but he says Shabbat is meant to be embedded in a matrix of Jewish spirituality. It doesn’t just come from nowhere.
Now, onto our in-house Proust Questionnaire! Tell me a movie, book, play, or piece of art or media that you love.
Paradigm Shift by Reb Zalman. That book is basically a collection of essays he wrote from the ’60s to the ’80s which lay out his vision for a vibrant, rooted Judaism in more technical detail. It’s the kind of book that makes my heart beat faster.
What’s the Bay’s best-kept secret?
The Albany Bulb! The Bulb reminds me of a beautiful, living art museum; I love all the outsider art.
When was the last time you felt a spiritual connection?
On this last Shabbat, I was visiting Arnold and Big Trees State Park with my partner, baby, and friends. We traced the whole biblical narrative as we were walking through these ancient, massive trees, some of which are thought to be 3,500 years old, which was when King David was around. It was amazing to be among living organisms that were alive this whole time, during this whole amazing story.
GatherBay Profiles is our interview series spotlighting the vast array of community members doing rad things! Released twice per month, the series aspires to celebrate GatherBay’s greatest treasure—the people around us. Want to be profiled? Email email@example.com.