Rabbi Jeremy Weisblatt may be a Philadelphia sports fan, but he has already made a solemn promise to his new congregation: If the Pittsburgh Steelers make it to the Super Bowl, he will don a Steelers jersey and wear it to shul.
“I’m blown away by the enthusiasm of the sports fans here,” he said. “It really gets to you.”
Weisblatt, who took the pulpit at Temple Ohav Shalom in Allison Park earlier this month, was raised in the eastern part of the state, but is delighted to now call Pittsburgh his home.
“We are soaking up all of Pittsburgh,” said Weisblatt, who moved to the Steel City in April alongside his wife Marissa — a University of Pittsburgh graduate — and their infant son, Alexander. “It’s the perfect mix. It’s easy to get to and from the suburbs, there’s a lot of culture, and the people are very friendly.”
Weisblatt, who earned his undergraduate degree from Penn State, was ordained in May 2014 at the Reform HUC-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.
He began his rabbinic journey, he said, at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary, transferring to HUC after three years when finding that the HUC-JIR offered a “good mix of tradition and learning how to serve the Jewish communities of today and tomorrow.”
He added that he is glad to have attended both institutions.
While at HUC-JIR, Weisblatt worked on LGBTQ issues, diversity and inclusion, as well as approaches to reintroducing, in “modern and meaningful ways,” Jewish rituals and traditions once largely absent from Reform Judaism.
Weisblatt most recently served as the assistant rabbi at Temple Sholom in Chicago, following his tenure as rabbi at Beth Sholom Temple in Fredericksburg, Va.
Weisblatt’s late father was also a Reform rabbi, whose practice was “on the traditional end” of Reform Judaism. When his father passed away at a young age, the family became part of a Conservative community, affording Weisblatt an upbringing steeped in the traditions of both movements.
He sees the rabbinate “not as a job, but as a calling,” he said, with a focus on developing personal connections with each member of his congregation and reaching out to the larger community, as well, to help determine how best he can serve.
“The first year, I will be on a listening campaign,” he said. “I’ll be asking people, ‘Why did you join? What keeps you coming? What would keep you coming more?’”
Weisblatt is “very personable,” said Temple Ohav Shalom president Ellen Sapinkopf. “He has the ability to work with all age groups. He’s a mensch. We are excited to see his family become part of our family.”
Sapinkopf is hoping that Weisblatt’s talent for connecting with a wide range of demographics will boost temple membership and “let people know who we are. We want to be recognized as an important part of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh.”
“Rabbi Weisblatt wants to have personal contact with every member of our congregation,” she said. “He wants to be hands-on. And he wants Temple Ohav Shalom to have a strong place in our wider community. We are small, but we hope to grow.”
The congregation, composed of 135 member-families, is optimistic that Weisblatt will be effective in growing the community and helping “to engage more of the Jewish population in the North Hills,” Sapinkopf said. “The future of Judaism is to have people involved now.”
Weisblatt, who currently is working on his doctorate of Hebrew Letters at HUC, is a committed advocate of Jewish education and looks forward to working with Ohav Shalom’s religious school students as well as adults. He will be offering “Torah study and yiddishkeit at a high engaging level,” he said, “providing introductions when necessary.”
Ohav Shalom, he said, is a “good fit” for his family.
“I’m very excited to be a part of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, and the warm welcome I’ve received has been overwhelming and wonderful,” he said. “There is so much wonderful potential to tap, building bridges with the community. And I am looking forward to working with a great staff who will be my partners in my sacred work.” PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at