Calling it a dream job, Temple Beth Am’s new senior Rabbi Jeremy Barras is happy to be in Miami. “I inherited a remarkable congregation,” he says.
Barras says 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,” he says.
Barras says he had not planned on leaving his last post and was even offered a long-term contract to stay. But he had heard of the great reputation of the clergy at Beth Am and decided to throw his hat in the ring. He says the more he advanced through the interview process and learned about the congregation, the more he understood that Beth Am was a unique, special place.
At Beth Am, Barras has a whole team that he says is “doing incredible stuff.”
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 says. “We are planning a trip to Israel summer 2017.”
He is working on setting up a “sister” relationship with a reform congregation in Jersuelm.
“We are bringing in their cantor at the end of October,” he says.
The Beth Am board is expected to take up that item at the next board meeting.
“The leaders of our board are in favor of it and the clergy is in favor of it,” he says. “It’s something I have been passionate about. I think it is likely that it will happen.”
Barras 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.
Barras also wants to spend time on youth engagement and be active in the day school and the religious school.
“As a younger rabbi, I am very interested in the youth,” he says. In his first year, he plans to meet people and establish himself as the senior rabbi. Barras says he is a different person than Terry Bookman, rabbi emeritus.
“I learned a lot from him,” he says. “I took a course from him.”
Barras says it is important that through continued education each member sees Beth Am as a place where they can continue to grow as Jews.
“There are new challenges because the world is changing,” Barras says. “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, Barras says there are more people learning Torah today than at any time in history. Even though the challenges in the very secular world we live in are massive, he says there are many good things happening.
“I just feel very fortunate to be here,” he says. “I have a lot of passion for what I’m doing and I believe this is the right time of my life to be here.”