Temple Ohav Shalom will soon be searching for a new rabbi.
Shortly before the High Holidays, Rabbi Jeremy Weisblatt, who joined the congregation in 2017, told Ohav Shalom’s President Aaron Brauser that he needed to move to Philadelphia to help a close relative with a severe illness.
“He made this very difficult decision to make that a priority,” Brauser said. “He needed to leave the pulpit to be able to go back and care for a family member.”
For the immediate future, the Allison Park Reform congregation will lean on the talents of Director of Ruach and Youth Engagement Grant Halasz, who was hired by Ohav Shalom last year, and Cantor Julie Newman, who was already scheduled to join the congregation for the High Holidays when Weisblatt made his announcement.
“She’s an ordained cantor. Fortunately, she’s got experience,” Brauser said. “Right now, she’s kind of filling in as our spiritual leadership, she and Grant.”
The congregation also reached out to the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis as well as some local rabbis, who have agreed to help support Ohav Shalom with life cycle events.
Ohav Shalom leadership created a transition committee and will seat a search committee in the next few weeks to start the search process for a new rabbi. The congregation will submit its application to the CCAR in January, with the hope of hiring a full-time rabbi by July.
Brauser said the congregation has endorsed the time frame laid out by the board.
“We’ve had a couple of town halls. There’s very strong support,” he said. “This isn’t something that was because of a scandal, or we were trying to oust someone. I think everyone feels very strongly that we should be looking for a settled rabbi, come July.”
For his part, Weisblatt, who is working as the campus director at the University of Delaware Hillel appreciates that Ohav Shalom’s leadership has been so understanding.
“Aaron is a wonderful, incredible president,” Weisblatt said. “One of the best you can ever hope to work with and for as the rabbi of a congregation. I truly needed to be closer to family. Aaron was really supportive.”
Weisblatt has left a positive impact at Ohav Shalom, creating a progressive atmosphere that resonated with the young, Jewish families moving into the North Hills, Brauser said. Because of that legacy, the congregation is committed to finding the “right rabbi.” If the right candidate isn’t identified by July, the congregation may continue its search for another year. That might mean continuing with the team now in place or hiring an interim rabbi.
“We want to get someone that understands the dynamic of what it’s like to raise a family where there’s not a lot of Jewish kids and families and can provide us that kind of beacon and leadership in the North Hills,” Brauser said. “We want to make sure we don’t just go for whatever’s out there. We’re going to work to find the best fit and if we don’t find anyone, maybe there’s an option to hire an interim to bridge the gap until we find the right fit.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.