The Chief’s Chief: An Interview With Rabbi Josh Joseph '88
GB: If you taught in the college, what would ratemyprofessor say about your course?
JJ: I hope it would say “fun,” “practical,” “personal,” “inspiring,” not because I’m an inspiring person, but because I hope it would get them inspired to think differently, to be more self aware. And more skills-oriented. Oh, and it would complain about hard papers.
GB: What is your most marked characteristic?
JJ: I need multiple choice for that one.
GB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
JJ: I think I would be a foot taller so I could have had my NBA career.
GB: What is your current state of mind?
JJ: The first word that comes to mind is resilience. Our house got hit by Super-storm Sandy and I have some family members are getting over serious illness. Resilience. That’s my state of mind.
GB: You’ve tweeted only 7 times since September, are you tweet-skittish?
JJ: Truth is, I don’t know how to do it. I need a primer. I need someone to help. I tweeted a Dilbert cartoon once. I love it; I’m a big Dilbert guy, but should I tweet Dilbert every day? I don’t know what to do. I’m not hopeless, but I could use another hour in the day to think about a great tweet.
GB: Which historical figure do you most identify with?
JJ: That’s impossible. One person? First of all I could go through the Torah: Avraham, Moshe; I could give you a case for Noah and even Yishmael. I always want to talk about why Yishmael got a bad rap. And Nevi’im? Shmuel Alef is my favorite sefer. Come on, you can’t do that. I studied history in college. Everyone is talking about Lincoln now. I loved FDR when I learned about him. Ghandi. My great-grandfather. The Emek Halacha? I don’t know.
GB: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
JJ: My family.
GB: What is your favorite leisure activity?
JJ: Spending time with my family. Ahead of sports.
GB: What were you like in college?
GB: Do you cook?
JJ: I burn toast.
GB: Which phrases do you most overuse?
JJ: Um…You need to ask the people I work with. They make fun of me all the time.
GB: Which phrases does President Joel overuse?
JJ: I bet you could tell me the top three. “Ennoble and Enable,” “Torah Umadda lichatchila within a big tent,” and, “you’re fired.” He says that to me all the time.
GB: What did you learn today with President Joel?
JJ: We are learning the fourth perek of berachot, which is my favorite perek in shas.
GB: If you could die and come back as a presidential fellow, which office would you work in?
JJ: I can’t say the office of the president. It would be boring. Office of the dean of Stern College, that would be fun. Come to think of it, I think I would settle on the office of institutional research. I love numbers.
GB: Which talent would you most like to have?
JJ: I would love to learn how to fly an airplane.
GB: Which talent would you most like to see in others?
JJ: Emotional intelligence.
GB: What do you most value from friends?
JJ: Persistence, patience, humor and a giving heart. Some combination of those.
GB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
JJ: If we are starting with Aristotle’s definition of eudaimonia, I’d throw in the beach and meditate with a great sefer.
GB: Golan, Chop Chop, Grandma’s or Lake Como?
JJ: None of the above. Amsterdam Berger on 92. I just went there. I got a breakfast burger: Fake Bacon, Egg and a quarter pounder.
GB: How do you feel about having a first name as your last name?
JJ: You wouldn’t believe how many comments I get. I think that’s the only reason I got this job. Richard Joel, Josh Joseph. We share the same problem.
GB: Colbert or Stewart?
GB: What is your greatest fear?
JJ: Jerry Seinfeld once said “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” My biggest fear is probably neither. I hate needles.
GB: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
JJ: So many, where do I begin? My lack of sense of humor. Oh, and I come late to things. I could keep going, I could beat myself up? That’s probably it actually, I beat myself up about lots of things.
GB: What is the trait you most deplore in others?
JJ: Cynicism and a lack of sense of humor.
GB: What is your greatest extravagance?
JJ: Tie clips and J. Crew. I got the tie clip at J. Crew.
GB: What are you saving up to buy in this year’s seforim sale?
JJ: I just lost a thousand seforim in Sandy: Everything. Watch out Seforim sale.
GB: Which living person do you most despise?
JJ: Ahmadenejad? What am I going to say? Don’t write that. I love my family.
GB: What is your greatest regret?
JJ: I don’t have a Ph.D. in Psychology.
GB: What is your greatest love?
JJ: My wife. My kids.
GB: When and where you were happiest?
JJ: Being married in Gush Etzion. But if I go back to the definition of happiness, the Aristotelian notion of eudaimonia, I’m not there yet.
GB: What is your most treasured object?
JJ: Aside from my iPhone? My most treasured object has got to be the Hamelech Megillah I inherited from my great-grandfather.
GB: What was the best present you got this Chanuka?
JJ: Achiezer dropped a box of of presents for my kids after Sandy. That was very meaningful. There was nothing in there for me, but what are you going to do?
GB: Where would you ideally like to live?
JJ: Alon Shveut.
GB: Who are your favorite writers?
JJ: Depends on the day. There is too much. My wife reads 100 books a year, I have to keep up with her.
GB: Who are your heroes in life?
JJ: My number one hero in my life is my wife Julie who survived three cancers. My parents, Jewish leaders. Richard Joel.
GB: What is your motto?
JJ: Write your own story.