On Friday nights you can find me leading Sabbath worship services at Temple B'nai Shalom in East Brunswick, New Jersey. But on Sunday summer afternoons chances are I’ll be waist-deep in a cold-water stream, casting my dry flies to those mysterious and hidden trout. On the pulpit I am known as Rabbi Eisenkramer; on the river, I am The Fly Fishing Rabbi.
I grew up fishing the bass lakes of Missouri with my father, casting night crawlers with a Zebco Rod. Then I saw “the movie,” A River Runs Through It, the tale of a fly fishing minister and his sons in early 20th Century Montana. The wondrous scenery, the graceful casting, the excitement of the rising fish—to put it simply, I was hooked. Not long afterwards I purchased my first fly-fishing rod, a St. Croix 5/6 weight 8’6”, which serves me well to this day.
Judaism and fly fishing quickly became my dual passions. I entered rabbinical school, studied in Jerusalem and New York City, and later served congregations in Brooklyn, Long Island Connecticut and now New Jersey. I also kept fly fishing, cherishing each spring and summer day that I could escape to the streams of New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island and the famous rivers of the Catskill Mountains in New York, casting my dry fly to the rising trout. One day it occurred to me that perhaps my two passions had something in common: fly fishing and being a rabbi are both spiritual. To lead religious services in a synagogue, lifting my voice in song before God, elevates my spirit. To wade in a cold-water stream, surrounded by the beauty and peace of nature likewise feeds my soul.