Change Afoot: New Rabbi for Beit Tikvah

November 14, 2013
BY Simone Ellin

While he hasn’t yet found permanent living space in Baltimore, Rabbi Larry Pinsker has already found a spiritual home at Congregation Beit Tikvah in Roland Park. Rabbi Pinsker, a native of Chicago who has resided and led congregations in San Antonio, New York City and Toronto, recently moved to Baltimore from Winnipeg, Canada, to become Beit Tikvah’s new rabbi. He’s glad to be there.

“Beit Tikvah has a wonderful reputation for being eclectic, creative and for congregants who have a great love of Judaism and the Jewish people,” said the rabbi.

“Beit Tikvah stresses that Judaism is not a consumer commodity and that the congregation itself isn’t a service station; it’s a congregation that takes ‘community’ as a positive and necessary element of Jewish identity. While I’m sure there are some members for whom the congregation, as it already exists, meets their needs, there’s also a significant group that views the congregation as a place where it can make important contributions to a work in progress.”

Rabbi Pinsker grew up in an Ortho-dox family and attended a secular university, where he studied biochemistry. Increasingly however, he found himself drawn to the study of the humanities, especially philosophy and religion. He was eventually persuaded to pursue rabbinical studies, and after in-depth exploration of other mainstream religious movements, he opted to enter the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa. He graduated with a doctor of divinity degree in 2001 and received another doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2007.

Rabbi Pinsker said he was attracted to Reconstructionism because he saw [in it] an appreciation and love for all other denominations of Judaism.

“There are strengths and weaknesses in all the movements, and there is something vast and rich and rewarding to be found in all of them,” said Rabbi Pinsker. “Reconstructionism is not dismissive of other movements, and it does not exclude people on the margins because of the ways they express their humanity. I’ve seen too much good in the hearts of those people. That struck a chord with my youthful heart.”

While he values traditional Judaism immensely, Rabbi Pinsker sees Beit Tikvah as “the home of Jews who see Judaism and the Jewish people as continuing to develop and who re-imagine what being a Jew and doing Judaism can mean.”

“They don’t view Judaism as a finished product, but rather as an emergent property of the relationship between Jews and their heritage of having encountered God,” said Rabbi Pinsker. “[From that relationship,] they can turn their experiences and insights toward making a difference in life for themselves and the rest of the world.”

Rabbi Pinsker is extremely impressed with Beit Tikvah’s Kesher School.

“It’s a remarkable Hebrew School that seems to have found a loyal and growing base among members, as well as some nonmembers, seeking a creative, inspiring and motivating place for Jewish learning,” he said. “I’m awed by the steadfast commitment to the betterment of humanity I see at Beit Tikvah.”

To learn more about Congregation Beit Tikvah, visit beittikvah.org.

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