Calling it a dream job, new Temple Beth Am Senior Rabbi Jeremy Barras is happy to be in Miami.
“I inherited a remarkable congregation,” Barras said.
He said he walked into a great situation that doesn’t need a lot of changes. That’s a different scenario from his last position as senior rabbi at Temple Beth El in Fort Myers, which was not running smoothly when he arrived and he needed to make changes right away.
“It’s going to take a while to get a rhythm of the place before I can bring in my vision.”
Rabbi Barras said he had not planned on leaving his last post and was even offered a longterm contract to stay. But he heard of the great reputation of the clergy at Beth Am and decided to throw his hat into the ring. He said the more he advanced through the interview proces and learned about the congregation, the more he understood that Beth Am is a unique and special place.
At Beth Am he has a whole team that he said is “doing incredible stuff.” In Fort Myers, the staff was he and two others.
Now that he is in Miami, he does have goals. He plans to focus on Beth Am’s connection to Israel.
“I want to deepen our ties to Israel,” he said. “We are planning a trip to Israel, summer 2017.”
He is working on setting up a sister congregation with a reform congregation in Jerusalem. “We are bringing in their cantor at the end of October.”
The Beth Am board is expected to take up that item at its next meeting.
“The leaders of our board are in favor of it. The clergy is in favor of it,” he said. “It’s something I have been passionate about. I think it’s likely that it will happen.”
He started a similar program at his first job in Charlotte, NC. There they started a relationship with a synagogue in central Israel.
The potential sister congregation for Beth Am is the first reform synagogue in Jerusalem.
“I’m very passionate about Israel and I’m excited to bring my passion to Beth Am,” Rabbi Barras said.
He also wants to spend time on youth engagement and being active in the day school and the religious school.
“As a younger rabbi, I’m very interested in the youth.”
This first year, he plans to meet people and to establish himself as the senior rabbi. Barras says he’s a different person than Rabbi Emeritus Terry Bookman, for who, he has great respect.
“I learned a lot from him. I took a course from him once.”
Barras said it is important that, through continued education, each member sees Beth Am as a place that they can continue to grow as Jews.
“There are new challenges because the world is changing,” Barras said. “The way we connect with people is evolving. It’s a lot easier for spirituality to become lost. And there is a possibility that tradition can fade. The challenges are endless to keep people in every stage of life connected.”
At the same time, there are more people learning Torah today than at any time in history, Barras said. Although the challenges in the very secular work we live in massive, he said there are a lot of good things happening.
“I just feel very fortunate to be here. I have a lot of passion for what I’m doing. I believe this is the right time of my life to be here.”