When Rabbi Michael Pont of Temple Beth Ahm in Aberdeen was appointed president of the New Jersey Rabbinical Assembly recently, members of his congregation were not at all surprised.
“Rabbi Pont is a very compassionate and highly educated rabbi who serves the needs of all our members, young and old,” said Beth Ahm president Mark Rosenthal. “We think it’s a no-brainer that he was selected for the Rabbinical Assembly leadership position. We couldn’t be prouder of him.”
Pont, 40, was voted into the two-year term at the national Rabbinical Assembly convention last month at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. He succeeds Rabbi Josh Finkelstein of Franklin Lakes. The NJRA provides support and programming for the state’s more than 120 Conservative rabbis.
The installation will take place in Pont’s synagogue on Tuesday, June 15, at 7 p.m. Jewish community leaders — including Howard Gases, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, and Ann Goldman, executive director of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism — are expected to attend.
“I feel elated to receive this huge honor,” Pont said. “NJRA is a very valuable organization that gives Conservative rabbis a chance to gather and support one another. It helps provide opportunities for learning and professional growth so that we can better serve our congregations.”
The Rabbinical Assembly, established in 1901 by graduates of the rabbinical school of the Jewish Theological Seminary, is the international association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis. Its nearly 1,600 members serve as congregational rabbis and educators throughout the world.
As head of the NJRA, Pont said, he will plan educational programming for leaders of the Conservative movement and hold joint meetings with Reform rabbis in the region. “I plan to introduce a theme of study that New Jersey rabbis will be encouraged to highlight over the next year,” he said. “Together we can use our collective influence to bring attention to important issues affecting the Jewish community in New Jersey.”
Born and raised in a suburb of Detroit, Pont said he credits his active involvement in the Conservative movement’s United Synagogue Youth for inspiring his love of Jewish life and learning.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from University of Michigan, and earned his rabbinical degree from JTS. He has served as Temple Beth Ahm’s religious leader for the last six years, and director of the temple’s Hebrew High School. The 275-family congregation also has a preschool, religious school, and a variety of adult and youth programs.
“Part of our mission as a synagogue is to build the Jewish community and to encourage all members to embrace Jewish life,” said Pont, who lives in Aberdeen with his wife, Natalie, and children, Gabriel, 12; Emma, eight; and Jordana, five. “My goal is to offer as many opportunities to do that as we can.”