It was love that brought Rabbi Eric Rosin to Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen.
He loved the way the Conservative congregation respected its retiring rabbi, Gerald Zelizer. He loved its members’ commitment to Jewish education, their energy, and their enthusiasm.
On a personal note, Rosin is a newlywed who married Dr. Jennifer Blum, a New York-based psychiatrist, on June 7.
So he also loved that Neve Shalom is so much closer to his wife’s job than his former synagogue, Kesher Israel Congregation in West Chester, Pa., where Rosin served for 11 years.
“This works for both of us,” said Rosin. “I relocated to a place from where Jen could practice. We bought a house here in Metuchen, and now she’s commuting into New York.”
“I came here for the love of my life,” said Rosin. When asked whether that meant his wife or the synagogue, he laughed and said, “I guess both.”
Rosin began his tenure on July 15, although Zelizer, who served for 45 years, is staying on until late August to smooth the transition.
Rosin comes with a varied background. He grew up in a Reform home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and was active in National Federation of Temple Youth, becoming president of the Michigan region.
At Yale University, where Rosin majored in Judaic studies, he davened with an egalitarian minyan. He affiliated with a number of communities in the years that followed.
“When it came time to go to seminary, I realized I was a Conservative Jew,” said Rosin. “That may be one of the reasons I enjoy interacting with my colleagues in different movements.”
He went to law school at the University of Southern California while concurrently earning a master’s degree in communications management. After graduating in 1994, Rosin practiced entertainment law for four years in Los Angeles.
Realizing he needed to do something more fulfilling than spend 80 hours a week taking depositions and drafting legal briefs, he enrolled at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, the then recently constituted Conservative seminary in Los Angeles.
“Becoming a rabbi was a fascination I always had,” said Rosin. “I thought I might pursue a law career, but my fascination and attraction to Judaism was too strong. I find it wonderful being able to help people find and build community. I now realize it’s something I should have done the first time out.”
Rosin said law was good training for his current profession. “It teaches you to listen and how to resolve conflicts, think about what people’s motivations are, and how to meet their needs,” he explained.
His diverse background is partially what drew the synagogue’s rabbinic search committee to the 48-year-old rabbi.
“Number one was his ability to connect to different segments of our community,” said chair Jonathan Greenberg. “Number two, I think the best word I could use is his humility. He is a very humble man. Number three was his empathy for the average lay person. Because he didn’t go into the rabbinate right away, he can relate to lay people and the spiritual journey they are on because it took him a while to go on his own spiritual journey.”
Rosin served for two years as assistant rabbi of Temple Beth-El in Richmond, Va., before taking the position at the 340-family Kesher Israel. Members of Neve Shalom, with almost 400 families, have already connected with their new religious leader.
“The energy has been incredible,” said Rosin. “The amount of Jewish literacy, engagement, and warmth have been terrific. They have a very high attendance in adult education and a very strong sense of community, and I hope to build on that even more.
“Rabbi Zelizer has been absolutely wonderful, and it’s been wonderful to follow him and continue to work with him to some extent.”
Zelizer will became rabbi emeritus and continue to be part of the congregation.
Rosin was active with the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia and Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, holding leadership positions in both, as well as United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and interfaith groups.
He said other rabbis in the area have already reached out to welcome him, and he looked forward to working with them, and has heard “very nice things” from Neve Shalom members about other synagogues and Jewish organizations in the region, including the Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ. “I think it’s very important for Jewish institutions to cooperate with one another,” said Rosin.