Norman Maybloom admits he was a somewhat rebellious young man who refused to follow his father and grandfather into the Orthodox rabbinate.
However, the ensuing decades provided the Monroe resident with deepening insight into what Judaism has to offer. And on Aug. 27, the 71-year-old retired accountant and financial service manager at last joined the family “business,” when he was ordained as a rabbi.
He earned his ordination on-line through the unaffiliated Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute in Manhattan, which trains rabbis to meet the needs of nondenominational, unaffiliated, and intermarried Jews.
“It’s not so much that I became more religious, but I became more in tune with finding a place within the religion,” said Maybloom. “Being from a very Orthodox family background, I really can go to any shul and put on my tallis and be comfortable.”
The former Brooklyn resident, who moved to the Clearbrook adult community in 2004, said he first began toying with the idea of becoming ordained in the mid-1970s after he and his wife, Arlene, became involved with Marriage Encounter, spiritually-based weekend retreats designed to help couples grow in their marriages.
“I realized there were a tremendous amount of people who had no connection to any kind of religious Judaism and needed someone to help them when they needed a rabbi,” said Maybloom.
His schedule precluded going the traditional seminary route. The Internet, however, changed all that.
“We had classes about twice a week for a year and a half,” said Maybloom in a phone conversation. “I found it was fun doing it on the computer. We used a mini-cam so we were able to see each other just like we were in a regular class. There was great camaraderie from people coming from all different walks of life from all over the country. The other students came from all backgrounds.”
He was awarded his ordination at Common Ground Center in Starksboro, Vt., the same week that Hurricane Irene brought massive flooding to the state.
“We had to drive home through a hurricane,” he said.
‘Achieving his dream’
While it was unlikely he would ever seek a pulpit because of his age, Maybloom said, the ordination experience itself has been wonderful.
“I would recommend it to anybody,” he said. “We went through the Humash [Five Books of Moses] and the Halacha [Jewish law], and I really learned a lot. I really do think it affected me; it matured the way I talk to people.”
He acknowledged the decision to become a rabbi has gone over better with his friends than among his children, who are still unsure what to make of their father’s new vocation.
“My son and daughter are grown with their own families,” said the grandfather of four. “While they’ve accepted it as another accomplishment in my life, I think they’re concerned about the demands it may make on their lives.”
Maybloom, who is also president of the Jewish Congregation of Clearbrook, has become the volunteer chaplain of the Clearbrook chapter of the Jewish War Veterans, performing his first religious duty by leading its 9/11 memorial.
His second was at the Oct. 11 staff meeting and pre-Sukkot celebration of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, where he shook the lulav and etrog, answered questions, and delivered a d’var Torah.
“Norman Maybloom demonstrates that it doesn’t matter how old you are, or where you are in life, or what circumstances you find yourself in,” said federation adult communities coordinator Audrey Napchen. “If you have the passion for something you can find a way to do it. He is a living example of someone achieving his dream.”