New Jersey Jewish News
New jobs, new baby, new school mark Long Branch rabbis hectic first year
When Rabbi Nasanayl Braun celebrates his one-year anniversary as religious leader of Congregation Brothers of Israel in Long Branch on Aug. 15, the date will close out a year of life-changing events for the rabbi and his family.
After spending six years at Lincoln Square Synagogue on Manhattans Upper West Side, the family moved to Oakhurst last year after Braun became religious leader at Brothers of Israel. The move also meant a career change for his wife, Tamar, who was a teacher at SAR Academy, a day school in Riverdale, NY; she now teaches Judaic studies at Hillel Yeshiva in Ocean Township.
The couple are the proud parents of son and daughter Avi and Tova, six-year-old twins; son Ariel, age four; and six-month-old Eitan; the growing family was another milestone that Braun acknowledged during this hectic year.
While settling into his new role at Brothers of Israel, Braun assumed another challenge; congregation members and Rabbi Tobias Roth, Brauns predecessor had been laying the groundwork for the creation of the new Yeshiva of the Jersey Shore. After Roths retirement in 2005, organizers continued the planning process, which is intended to appeal to the areas Ashkenazi population. Braun voiced his enthusiasm for the project during his initial meetings with synagogue committees and members-at-large.
Plans for the yeshiva were pretty far along when I came to the congregation last summer, said Braun. It was an important part of the synagogues mission and growth. The enthusiasm was very high among the congregants and I was welcomed into the process. It was exciting to come here and join that effort.
In May, Rabbi Elie Tuchman became the new yeshivas head of school, and the schools first-grade class will commence in September at the Ruth Hyman Jewish Community Center in Deal. Enrollment for the first year is projected at 10 to 15 students (the Braun twins will be among them), and Brothers of Israel members hope that the yeshiva will eventually encompass grades one through eight.
New jobs for my wife and myself, a new baby, the new yeshiva, a new home for the family I guess you could say there were some life-style adjustments during the past 12 months, Braun laughed. But every one of them has enhanced the quality of our lives.
Braun was raised in Queens and ordained in 1998 at Yeshiva University in Washington Heights. He grew up in an Orthodox home and received an Orthodox day- and high school education. But a two-year course of study in Israel from 1992-94 introduced Braun to a new level of religious observance and intensity regarding Torah study.
Although he had completed a series of education courses at the university and was qualified to teach Judaic studies and accounting, Braun began to re-examine his life and career path.
I wanted to do something on a more spiritual level, he recalled. I knew there was more for me to do with my life.
He started teaching Judaic studies and serving as assistant rabbi at Lincoln Square Synagogue. He valued his teaching experience, but quickly realized that the rabbinate offered a chance to interact with congregants on a more personal level.
I realized I was more cut out to be a religious leader, Braun said. I was a better rabbi than I was a teacher and I derived more personal satisfaction from the rabbinate. That was the path I was meant to follow.
He became the synagogues senior rabbi before he and his family decided to move to Monmouth County last year.
Raising the family in the city really wasnt part of the long-term plan, said Braun. I wanted to be part of a community that I could help build and then watch it grow. There is a strong sense of community in this area that has already inspired a strong comfort level.
Braun also has developed strong relationships with the 200 families that comprise the membership base of the synagogue, which observed its centennial in August 1999.
This is a synagogue that continues to reinvigorate itself, he said. While there is a great sense of pride in the traditions that have emerged during the more than 100 years that it has been in existence, the members of the congregation also recognize emerging spiritual and educational needs.
To that end, Braun teaches several classes each week on subjects that include the Talmud, philosophy, Jewish culture, and principles of faith; Tamar Braun conducts a monthly lecture series for women congregants on such subjects as women biblical characters.
The evolution of the new yeshiva and an ongoing effort to reach out to the synagogues youth population will play major roles during the second year of his rabbinate, Braun said.
Jewish education and connecting the lessons of the Torah to life-cycle events is the goal of most rabbis, said Braun. Keeping the younger members of the congregation interested and involved in the life of the synagogue is a major challenge. There is a lot going on among kids today; they have very busy lives. Its up to us to find ways to keep them engaged on a personal and religious level. I embrace the opportunity to help make that happen.
Jill Huber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comment | | |
|©2006 New Jersey Jewish News
All rights reserved