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CCAR honors rabbi for commitment to learning
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CCAR honors rabbi for commitment to learning

Reform body offers Joel Abraham chance for mid-career study

Rabbi Joel N. Abraham of Temple Sholom has been honored by the Central Conference of American Rabbis for his participation in a “rigorous sustained continuing education” program called Keter Torah.

Like mid-career training for doctors and teachers, the program offers a range of classes, on-line lessons, conference calls, and webinars. Abraham has taken advantage of all of that, covering subjects from cantorial issues to “visual tefilla,” a way to enhance worshipers’ prayer experience through the use of art and imagery.

“Being involved in the program made it easier for me to make the time to do the studying I wanted to do,” said Abraham, whose Reform congregation is in Fanwood/Scotch Plains. “Otherwise, it can be really tough to take that time out from all your other activities.”

Abraham, who has now moved on to the second level of the program, is one of two rabbis in New Jersey honored this year for their participation in Keter Torah. The other is Rabbi Laurence Malinger of Temple Shalom in Aberdeen.

With the support of his congregational leaders, Abraham was able to make the Keter Torah commitment part of his contract last year and this. “In the first year, I did 54 hours of registered study,” he said. “This year, at the second level, I hope to do double that much.”

Abraham, who also serves on a number of clergy organizations and community service programs, has led Temple Sholom since 1999. The congregation, which now has around 250 families, was established in Plainfield in 1913 and moved to its current home, sharing space with the Fanwood Presbyterian Church, in 2003. It is in the process of developing a new venue in Scotch Plains. The rabbi and his wife, Michelle Shapiro Abraham, the temple’s director of education, have two young children.

“Rabbi Joel Abraham demonstrated his commitment to his congregation and community and to Jewish life overall by devoting the time and intellectual energy to intensive continuing education,” said CCAR chief executive Rabbi Steven A. Fox. “Those who add formal programs of learning to their agendas and commitments are exemplary in their dedication to their work and their quest to serve their congregants in the most comprehensive, sensitive way.”

Rabbi Deborah Prinz is the director of CCAR’s program and member services and its Joint Commission on Rabbinic Mentoring.

She said the Keter Torah program “honors and recognizes rabbis who have intentionally set out to enhance their skill sets and ability to bring excellent leadership to their synagogues and organizations. This deepens and enriches the ability of rabbis to lead in an increasingly complex Jewish community so that the Jewish community ultimately is strengthened.”

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