Rabbi Jonathan Perlman can’t wait to return to his old stomping grounds. He is a Pittsburgh native who grew up in Shadyside and attended Peabody High School.
As a child Perlman was a member of Rodef Shalom Congregation and participated in one-on-one learning sessions at the Kollel Jewish Learning Center.
Now, he is returning to his hometown.
“I am very excited to come back,” he said. “I have not been here since I graduated high school.”
Currently the spiritual leader at Temple Shalom in Eau Claire, Wis., Perlman said he didn’t hesitate to apply for the position of rabbi at New Light when it became available.
His resume shows he is more than qualified for the job. During rabbinical school Perlman interned at a large synagogue in Philadelphia. He was a chaplain at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, and worked many years for the Jewish Community Center there.
“Through all my experiences I have concluded that the small synagogue is the way of the future,” he said.
Perlman wants to take advantage of what he calls New Light’s “warm feel.” He believes a small synagogue is the best opportunity for a rabbi to relate with people.
“I want people to feel comfortable whether they are normally alienated, or traditional shul goers,” Perlman said.
Previously, Perlman was the rabbi for small congregations in Massachusetts and New Jersey, where he honed his interest in the small congregation model.
“What’s missing with larger synagogues is the focus on the personal growth of individuals,” he said.
Perlman is especially fond of keeping his older patrons involved. He is striving to hold many learning classes in one-on-one situations.
“I taught many small classes at my JCC and loved the environment,” Perlman said.
He wants to make a connection with the Agency for Jewish Learning in an effort to have the resources needed to hold these learning classes.
“I really just want personal growth and counseling on top of my agenda,” he said.
Perlman will hold his first Friday night service Aug. 6.
“I just want to sell New Light as the warm place it is,” he said.
(Brandt Gelman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)