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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


June 14, 2013  RSS feed
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Text: T T T


Rodeph Sholom’s new rabbi to bring youthful vibe
Jewish Press

Rabbi Josh Hearshen, wife Carrie and daugher Ayelet. Rabbi Josh Hearshen, wife Carrie and daugher Ayelet. Among Rabbi Josh Hearshen’s many interests are riding horses, playing roller hockey, practicing magic and cooking, but most of all, he loves Judaism and is looking forward to becoming the new rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Tampa.

Rabbi Hearshen, 34, plans to arrive in Tampa July 4, moving here with his wife, Carrie, and 4-year-old daughter, Ayelet, from Syosset, NY, where he has served as associate rabbi at Midway Jewish Center.

Rabbi Hearshen said he had never been to Tampa until he made two visits as a candidate to take the place of outgoing Rabbi Marc Sack.

“I have been in Tampa about 49 hours and plan to move there for a very long time. It is a congregation that’s greatest days still lie ahead of it; a congregation moving into future … hungry to be brought along on a journey toward spirituality.”

Rabbi Josh Hearshen Rabbi Josh Hearshen After his first interview, he told his wife he loved the warm reception he received and knew this is where he wanted to be. “I was very drawn to the lay leadership. They are very passionate about their congregation and I am very excited about prospect of moving the congregation forward. I am also impressed with the great work that Rabbi Sack has done. … he has left me an incredible community,” he said.

Rabbi Hearshen said just the name of the congregation, Rodeph Sholom, which means “pursuers of peace,” is inspiring. “In America, we let things happen but the idea of Rodeph – to seek, to pursue – that impresses me. I hope to be able to lead people who want to seek things … and not wait for them.”

Errol Pegler, president of Rodeph Sholom, said the congregation is delighted to bring Rabbi Hearshen on board. “He was extremely energetic and had some very innovative program ideas for all age groups and a great sense of spirituality,” Pegler said. “We were also looking for someone who could help us build our synagogue community.”

As for innovative programs, he said one that stood out was the roller hockey league that the rabbi formed at his New York congregation. The league played its games after Shabbat services in the parking lot of the synagogue. “We would like to try something like that here,” Pegler said.

Another plus, Pegler said, is that “In the two pulpits he has had already, he opens up his home to families. He likes to cook. He also mentioned the desire to do more programs for seniors. It was things like that that we found very positive about him.”

Rabbi Hearshen officially starts on July 15 and will soon be joined by a new cantor, Andres Kornworcel, who will begin on Aug. 1. Rabbi Hearshen was involved in the selection process. Both men are young, but Pegler noted the congregation did not set out to go with younger personnel, but it worked out that way. Outgoing cantor Hazzan Mordechai Schram is returning to the New York area.

Rabbi Hearshen, who grew up in Detroit, said he has known since high school that he wanted to be a rabbi and a March of the Living trip to Poland and Israel just further convinced him of that.

“I always joke around about when I chose to be a rabbi,” he said. “But I love what I do – to teach children and adults about God, I have always had a passion about Judaism.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in social relations with a minor in Jewish studies at Michigan State University in 2001, and received rabbinic ordination at the University of Judaism, now known as American Jewish University, in Los Angeles in 2007.

“I was an intern at Beth Haverim in Agora Hills, near Los Angeles, for two years and I taught at Los Angeles Hebrew High School,” he said, adding that he supervised the high school’s history department and wrote the curriculum for the history program. He has been recognized for excellence in education by the Bureau of Jewish Education in Los Angeles, and with the national Grinspoon- Steinhardt award for his work at the high school. He is also co-author of a responsa for the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards on the subject of violent and defamatory video games, specifically the reasons why such games are unfit for consumption in a Jewish context.

After his ordination, he served as assistant rabbi at Congregation Herzl-Ner Tamid on Mercer Island, in suburban Seattle, WA, before taking the associate rabbi position in Syosset on Long Island.

Rabbi Hearshen says his wife, Carrie, is the first person he met in college and is one of his greatest inspirations. She is an accomplished Jewish educator and will teach in the elementary school program at Hillel Academy in Tampa, where their daughter will attend pre-kindergarten.

Rabbi Hearshen is a big fan of ice hockey. He grew up a huge Detroit Red Wings fan and still has allegiances to them and the New York Islanders, but he says he will probably adopt the Tampa Bay Lightning as a team to follow.

He is an avid reader, enjoys magic and is a bit of a tech guru – he helped create the website for Midway Jewish Center — and expects to join an adult roller hockey league. He said his family loves Disney, so trips to Disney World are likely.

“I also love to cook and worked at a gourmet kosher restaurant when I lived in Detroit.”

Welcome!!! I look forward to

Welcome!!! I look forward to working with you!

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