Rabbi Andy Gordon feels that he has found the proper spiritual home at Bolton Street Synagogue.
“I loved Bolton Street Synagogue, the warmth and inclusivity and intimacy that they showed, both in their application and when I visited,” he said. “It just seemed like the right fit — I was the right rabbi for them, and they were the right congregation for me.”
Gordon, associate rabbi at Temple Sinai of Roslyn in New York, will become the spiritual leader at the Reform Baltimore City congregation on July 1.
A Toledo, Ohio native, Gordon earned his bachelor’s degree in history and Jewish studies from the University of Michigan and was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 2008. In the four years following his ordination, Gordon served as the assistant rabbi of Scarsdale Synagogue in New York before moving to his current role at Temple Sinai, where has been since 2012.
“I have heard incredible things about the Baltimore Jewish community, especially in regard to the partnerships between local organizations and synagogues, the diversity of the community and Jewish programming,” said Gordon.
He will be replacing Rabbi John Franken, who has served as Bolton Street’s spiritual leader for the past five years. Franken would not speak definitively as to what he will do next but shared that he will make an announcement very soon and will be moving on to something he is genuinely excited about and “will be a wonderful challenge for me in the next decade or so of my rabbinate.”
Franken is leaving on warm and amicable terms and said that he is not ready to give up his Baltimore connection or home.
“I am delighted to see [Gordon] appointed the rabbi. I think he is a terrific guy — upbeat, energetic, forward-thinking, people-oriented. He will do an admirable job building on our strengths, and he will carry forward our mission and vision to be an outstanding liberal Jewish presence.”
Russ Margolis, president of Bolton Street Synagogue, said that Bolton Street’s search for a new rabbi was greatly aided by both its recent affiliation with the Union for Reform Judaism and by the experience and wisdom of Franken, who helped in every step of this process.
“Among Rabbi Gordon’s strengths is his affinity for young people,” said Margolis. “We will be looking to him for guidance as we sustain and grow opportunities for youth within our congregation and more generally within the Baltimore community. We also greatly value his commitment to inclusivity, so that Bolton Street will remain, and even further develop, as a community for individuals within the Jewish community who may not have felt within the broader framework of Jewish congregational life, including the LGBT community, interfaith families and Jews of color.”
Gordon, who is moving to Baltimore with his husband, Brian ten Siethoff, and their 4-year-old son, Caleb, cited that the pursuit of social justice and social action through partnerships both within and without the Jewish community were a huge factor that drew him to Bolton Street.
“I think that every congregation has its own unique identity, and I felt that Bolton Street, specifically, truly lives by their word. They are really welcoming and inclusive to anyone who wants to be a part of the congregational community,” said Gordon. “I think that especially in recent months with the rise of anti-Semitism and bigotry, this is really a time that people are looking to connect to each other. My hope is that we can be a comfort and place to support one another and also [a congregation] that reaches out to the Muslim and Christian communities for support and partnerships.”
Gordon is particularly excited that Bolton Street just joined the Reform movement this past year. He explained that it was a huge draw because it showed him that the congregation was looking to be a part of a broader Jewish community.
In his first few of months in Baltimore, his focus will be on building relationships with the members of the congregation and community “because that is central to my identity as a rabbi,” he said. “It is all about relationships.” He also aims to engage the interfaith community in Greater Baltimore more fully.
In the end, it was the community that prompted Gordon to accept the position at Bolton Street. “Personally, I was looking to be a part of a congregation where my family and I could be at home,” he said. “This is a community where I would be welcome whether I was a rabbi or not.”