This week, on behalf of our larger non-rabbinic Jewish community, I had the pleasure of welcoming our two newest pulpit rabbis, Rabbi Danielle Weisbrot of Congregation B’nai Sholom and Rabbi Ben Kean of Congregation Beth Abraham-Jacob. (Note: Rabbi Ami Monson, our new community chaplain through Jewish Family Services, is already a veteran having been here well over a month.)
When welcoming new clergy, I like to convey the uniquely pluralistic nature of our community. Our rabbis are unbelievably collegial with one another and set the tone for the rest of us. In our community, seemingly more than in others, it is fairly common for people to hold associate memberships at multiple synagogues. When there is a simcha at one synagogue, the drop in attendance at the other synagogues is noticeable as people flock to celebrate together regardless of affiliation. Our rabbis host a communal Rosh Hashanah Tashlich service together for the entire community.
I don’t mean to give the impression that people aren’t committed to their own synagogues—they are. But the joke about the Jews who belong to two synagogues—one they go to and one they wouldn’t set foot in—simply doesn’t exist in our community. And for those who don’t leave the Capital District much, know that our model is practically unheard of elsewhere in the country.
To bring home my point, I like to share the following story:
A few years ago, I was at a conference in Jerusalem. I shared a hotel room with the Conservative rabbi of Nashville, Tenn. I told him about our community, and he responded, “Nashville is exactly the same way. I had never seen anything like it. It’s amazing!”
Of course, I understood immediately why this would be true of Nashville. Nashville’s Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Saul Strosberg, is from Schenectady and learned his pluralism and collegiality growing up in our community.
So you see, we are not just amazing for ourselves, but we bring that light wherever we go.
Welcome, Rabbis! We look forward to many years of growing and learning from and with you.
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