Young Israel set to welcome new rabbi

BY SARAH WILSON, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

After over a year of searching for a new rabbi for Young Israel, the Orthodox congregation voted overwhelmingly to invite Rabbi Moshe Shulman to join them in August.

Shulman is moving to St. Louis from Toronto, after being the rabbi for an Orthodox synagogue for 10 years. He and his wife, Baila, have six children, ranging in ages from 1 to 20. The family lived in Israel for 10 years previous to that.

“He’s experienced. He’s a scholar. He’s a teacher,” said Stuart Zimbalist, chairman of the search committee for Young Israel. “He has a wonderful personality, so between being all of those things, I think people in our congregation said ‘this is the rabbi who would be best for our shul.'”

The search for a new rabbi started over a year ago when Rabbi Jeffrey Bienenfeld, the former Young Israel rabbi of 26 years, announced his retirement. He and his family moved to Israel and now live in Jerusalem.

The search committee chose Shulman out of 50 rabbinical candidates. There were four finalists that were brought into St. Louis for an interview. Later on, the board unanimously recommended Shulman to the congregation.

“It’s a wonderful combination to not only be able to research and think, but also to communicate so well and to be such a compelling teacher and speaker,” said Bobby Medow, president of Young Israel. “If you take that package and wrap it up with warmth, a sense of humor and a very engaging personality, you’ve got Rabbi Shulman.”

Shulman said he does not plan to change or do anything to the congregation until he gets to know everyone and learns what the situation is like.

“Until you get to know everybody, you don’t know what should change, what should be kept or enhanced, and what should be let go,” Medow said. “So he is not making any decisions until he arrives, which is a very good decision.”

This will be Shulman’s first time living in St. Louis. He said he and his family are looking forward to being a part of a new synagogue.

“They are wonderful people and I think there is an opportunity for us all to grow together and that’s what it’s all about,” said Shulman.

Shulman is not the first person in his family to become a rabbi. He follows in the footsteps of his two grandfathers and his father, who have also been rabbis.

Shulman graduated high school in New York, and attended college in Israel. He plans to receive his master’s degree in Jewish education in the near future.

“I like to teach and engage peoples’ minds and explore various depths of Jewish traditions,” Shulman said. “I love teaching Tanakh, because Bible studies is a field that is often neglected in the Jewish world for reasons that are hard to define. That is probably why I went into being a rabbi in the first place, because I got to engage people in all kinds of different ways and teach Torah. So I take the role of rabbi, which in its Hebrew term means ‘rav.’ I take that quite literally. I see the rabbi as a teacher of the community.”

At Young Israel’s annual banquet a few weeks ago, Shulman and his wife made an appearance, and they had a standing ovation from the congregation.

“The congregation is more than happy that he’s going to be leading us,” Medow said. “We feel he is an unusual combination of talent, ability and skill and I think he’s just what Young Israel has been looking for.”

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