An Interview with Rabbi Baldachin

Why did you become a Rabbi?

“I knew from the age of 15 that I wanted to be a rabbi.  I was involved in USY and was Religious Education VP for my New Jersey Region. I loved learning, teaching, Kabalat Shabbat and being part of a Jewish community. I was one of ten Jewish kids in my high school in New Providence New Jersey so USY was my social outlet and helped form my identity.

“I also really connected with my family rabbi, Bill Horn, who showed me what life was like as a rabbi.  It’s a beautiful way to live to be with people in sacred moments in their life. He married people, did baby namings and their kids’ baby namings for three generations. He was a comforting presence to my family as we dealt with the illness and death of my grandfather. That really spoke to me: the ability to be a family’s rabbi throughout their lives.”

What do you like about working with a smaller congregation?

“I love the relationships. Being a rabbi of a small congregation helps me get to know people. Meeting them in their homes or over coffee, not just once but ongoing. It gives me a chance to reach out to people for birthdays, illness, death and just to catch up. And be a part of people’s journeys.”

 

As a Conservative Rabbi, how do you view the range of individuals’ observance in the community?

“Observance is one gate into Judaism. When we think about Jewish journeys it is important not to gauge on sacred activities alone. They can be powerful and moving at certain times but at other times people may be looking for ways to be socially Jewish or to engage through Jewish music, art, history, connection with Israel, through simchas, through their children or just through relationship with their rabbi. My religiosity is only one part of my Judaism. My stance on social justice, my values that come from my Jewish identity, the words I use, the relationships I build are all part of my Jewish identity. Jewishness is a lifelong journey.”

 

In Rockland County you organized religious leaders to speak out about injustices to public schools by the ultra-Orthodox majority in a neighboring district. What did you learn from that experience?

“It opened my mind to the power of clergy in making a difference in people’s minds. As a result, we were able to see the NYS Legislature pass legislation for students in East Ramapo giving district oversight to the State Commissioner of Education and giving East Ramapo some $3 million to bring back art, music and sports. It’s something that seemed so far off when we started and was a real step toward bringing justice to the district.  Our hope is that it will continue for the next few years until public schools are on par with other schools in Rockland County.”

 

What do you hope to accomplish at Shaarei Tikvah?

“Shaarei Tikvah has so much energy and potential to accomplish its goal to be a warm community able to reach all its members. It’s multi- generational, musical and fun. It’s inspiring to work with a congregation that really strives to create a cohort of lifelong learning and is welcoming to all. From work I’ve done during the transition, I’m confident we’re going to do an amazing job together.”