Beth Shalom rabbi at home on slopes or in court of law
Orthodox shul finds ‘nice fit’ in new leader
Rabbi Dovid Harrison is by any measure an individual with eclectic interests. He can be found in a courtroom representing clients as an attorney, gliding down the ski slopes at Lake Tahoe, or in Eastern Europe teaching Torah as a Chabad emissary.
Now, the 31-year-old Lubavitch-trained rabbi has undertaken a new endeavor — serving as religious leader of Congregation Beth Shalom in Red Bank.
“I am passionate about teaching and reaching out to Jewish people,” said Harrison, who assumed the pulpit on July 15 and will move with his family from Brooklyn to Red Bank in the coming weeks. Those passions are enhanced, he said, by taking on the new position. “There is lots of Jewish culture in the area and it’s a great place to raise a family. We wanted to stay in the New York area and we love the Jersey Shore — so it’s perfect.”
One of Harrison’s reasons for remaining within commuting distance of midtown Manhattan is the law firm where he works as a lawyer specializing in employment litigation. His rabbinical post is considered part-time.
Harrison has replaced Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro, the 53-year-old congregation’s first full-time rabbi, who left after two years for the Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation in Baltimore. During his tenure, Shapiro doubled the congregation’s size from 19 families to 40.
The chair of the rabbinic search committee said members believed Harrison would continue to offer the same energetic leadership. “He met all our criteria,” said Joseph Kaufman of Holmdel. “Both he and his wife are young, dynamic professionals.”
Harrison’s wife, Hindy, is a special education teacher and therapist for autistic children. The couple has three children, Sara, four; Moshe, two; and Rosie, six months. The two oldest have been enrolled in Shalom Torah Academy in Morganville.
“We’re very much looking forward to them revitalizing our synagogue, which has been struggling for many years,” said Kaufman. “The match between his rabbinic calling and their personalities and professional backgrounds made for a nice fit with us.”
A native of Miami Beach and a diehard Miami Dolphins football fan, Harrison attended high school at a French yeshiva and received a bachelor’s degree in talmudic law from Yeshiva Gedolah Rabbinical College of Greater Miami. He earned a master’s in Hebrew letters and ordination from the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown and his law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan in 2004.
It was while attending those yeshivot — with their long Passover vacations — that Harrison became an avid spring skier.
“Around Pesach you get the best spring skiing, so my family would go to Tahoe every year,” said Harrison. “But I’ve skied in New Hampshire and Vermont. In fact, we’d like to do some kind of ski Shabbos with the congregation.”
While a student rabbi, he became regional director of Chabad Lubavitch of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, where he coordinated social and religious services, summer camps, and holiday events and helped establish a Jewish community center in Estonia.
When he was a student, Harrison also served as a rabbi at Chabad centers in Fort Lee and Teaneck and on Cape Cod. While in law school, he was the rabbi at the Palm Beach Home for Adults assisted-living center in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and was founding rabbi of the Family Torah Center on Staten Island.
“I have been educating since I was 14,” said Harrison, who said he sees no conflict between his Chabad background and the fact that Beth Shalom is a Modern Orthodox synagogue. “I’m looking to build on what Rabbi Shapiro has done. We’re starting Torah classes and a Shabbos morning parsha discussion and will have other Torah lectures. We will have holiday programming and outreach to the local community.”