Rabbi Smith grew up in Minneapolis. He says, "it was great. I went to a Jewish Day School similar to Hillel Academy." He and his friends played sports a lot. In the summer they would play softball every day, and in the winter they would do a lot of sledding. Rabbi Smith is still in touch with some of his school friends! When asked about the main difference between Pittsburgh and Minneapolis, he said "the weather." There, it is very cold, and it stays cold all winter long. However, the people in Minneapolis know how to deal with the snow. They tell everyone to get their cars off the streets, and they plow the streets from sidewalk to sidewalk.
As a student, Rabbi Smith generally liked English, and Gemara. That being said, his teachers were a main factor when it came to which subjects he liked or disliked. His least favorite subject was usually based on which teacher he was struggling to get along with. Rabbi Smith loves teaching about all Judaic Studies topics - Gemara, Chumash, Halacha, Jewish Thoughts. Rabbi Smith currently teaches Gemara, and Jewish Thoughts for the Boys High School. Rabbi Smith also likes being a sub for other teachers. Rabbi Smith is also looking forward to the new building for the Boys High School. He said "I'm excited about the new Bais Medrash and the new classrooms, but mostly, I'm excited about having our own space to create the best possible environment for the students. While the JCC has been an incredible host these last eight years, you can't compare having your own place to using someone else's."
Being a Dad is one of his main hobbies. As he says, "I spend a lot of time with my kids when I'm not in school. Every summer I run Camp Dad (#bestcampever) whenever my kids aren't in Camp Hillel and all summer for the younger ones. There's so much to do around Pittsburgh, so there's rarely a dull (boring) moment." Rabbi Smith has six kids. Each kid was asked about the thing that they like the most about their Dad. "He likes me the best," said Dov. "He's funny," Moshe said. "He got us the wii," Rafi said. Kyle said, "he is a good hugger." Eitan likes that his Dad plays with him. Emmy (Rabbi Smith's baby girl) loves her Dad, but her gurgle baby language is incomprehensible to the average human.
I know that many students (me included) love pranking their teachers and principal. One of the best pranks people have on Rabbi Smith was a pre-Purim prank. A few years ago, the seniors replaced his desk with a small table. He looked everywhere for his desk, but couldn't find it. "How do you hide a desk?!" he says. He found it at the end of the day. It was just on the first floor of the JCC. If you want to prank your teacher or principal, I think that you should know Rabbi Smith's rule: "as long as it doesn't damage anything or compromise anyone's personal information."
Rabbi Smith went to Israel two weeks ago. When I asked him about it, he said, "Incredible! I hadn't been in Israel in 18 years. I got together with family, alumni and old friends and visited 13 Yeshivas in three days! I davened at the Kotel every morning for Shacharis and enjoyed just walking around and taking in all of the sights and sounds of Yerushalayim. I can't wait to go back!"
Fun/cool fact: Rabbi Smith once spent 24 hours in a forest alone. This was when he was a counselor at a summer camp. He was only given a meat stick, oatmeal, some bleach drops to clean the lake water, and they had to make their own shelters. When he woke up, Rabbi Smith davened Shacharis. During davening, he heard something - it was one of the campers. Because this boy didn't put his food high above the ground, animals ate his food. He wanted to take Rabbi Smith's canoe, and go to the main site to get food, but encroaching on someone else's campsite was forbidden. Rabbi Smith said, "yeah, sure." The counselor who returned the camper back to his campsite yelled at Rabbi Smith for letting this kid go alone in a canoe. The crazy thing is that on their way to the camper's campsite, they saw another camper trying to climb a rocky mountain. That camper happened to be stuck, and couldn't get down. They had to do an emergency rescue. They were only able to save him because Rabbi Smith let that first camper go alone in a canoe!!!
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