By Cindy Mindell
Every summer, the Ledger surveys the rabbinic landscape of Connecticut to see who’s leaving the Nutmeg State. A follow-up article later this summer will introduce incoming clergy.
Rabbi Leah Cohen, Temple B’nai Chaim, Ridgefield: 1998-2013
Rabbi Leah Cohen is leaving the Ridgefield congregation she has served for 15 years to serve as executive director and senior Jewish chaplain of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, starting mid-July. Watch the Ledger for an interview with Cohen.
Rabbi Michelle Dardashti, Director of Community Engagement, Temple Beth El, Stamford: 2011-13
In July, Rabbi Michelle Dardashti will move with her husband, Nathan Sher, and their two daughters to Providence, R.I., where she will serve as associate chaplain of the Jewish Community at Brown University and rabbi of Brown Rhode Island School of Design Hillel.
“My family and I love so many things about Temple Beth El and the Stamford Jewish community and are certainly sad to go,” Dardashti says. “I will miss serving the full generational spectrum of people involved in a congregational rabbinate, but I’m excited to ‘go back to college.’ We really look forward to being dues-paying shul members – and likely joining more than one!”
Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer, Temple Shearith Israel, Ridgefield: 2008-13
Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer joined Temple Shearith Israel in 2008 after serving congregations in Syosset and Brooklyn, N.Y. On July 1, Eisenkramer will relocate with his wife and two children from Ridgefield to East Brunswick, N.J., where he will serve as rabbi of Temple B’nai Shalom.
“I am grateful for the five wonderful years I spent as rabbi of Temple Shearith Israel and as a part of the Connecticut Jewish community,” he says. “I will take with me many sweet memories of times shared on the bima and simchas celebrated together. May we all go from strength to strength.”
Associate Rabbi Alysa Mendelson Graf, Temple Israel, Westport: 2004-13
A native of Scarsdale, N.Y., Alysa Mendelson Graf joined Temple Israel in 2004 as assistant rabbi and is now associate rabbi.
“Rabbi Mendelson has brought Temple Israel her energy and creativity as well as strong conviction for the need for building Jewish identity and congregational connections,” says the shul’s immediate past president, Diana Muller. “She found innovative ways to bring multiple generations of our congregants into the temple at the same time and, together with our volunteers, created special Friday-night ‘happenings’ that included services, programs, meals, and social-action projects to engage us all. She helped us take our Friday-night Shabbat service to the shores of Compo Beach, proving that we could get hundreds of our congregants to celebrate an ordinary Shabbat together. Rabbi Mendelson shared her love of Torah and Judaism with the many congregants of all ages whom she helped become b’nai-mitzvah.”
Rabbi Mendelson is exploring employment options together with husband, Adam Graf, and sons Gideon, Solomon, and Rafael.
Rabbi Robert Orkand, Temple Israel, Westport: 1982-2013
Rabbi Robert Orkand is retiring from Temple Israel after serving the Westport community for more than 30 years. Read an in-depth interview with Orkand, in the Ledger’s June 7 issue and on www.jewishledger.com.
Rabbi Yossi Pollak, Beit Chaverim Synagogue of Westport/Norwalk: 2008-13
A native of East Brunswick, N.J., Rabbi Yossi Pollak and his wife Brooke, and the couple’s two daughters, are moving to White Plains, N.Y., where they will be involved in the Hebrew Institute of White Plains community. Pollak is exploring employment options as a Jewish educator.
“We’ve tried to increase people’s connection to the synagogue in a lot of different ways, adding programs for children, cooking classes, musical events, women’s programs – all of them successful attempts to find different avenues of connection for those affiliated with Beit Chaverim and others in the community,” says Pollak, who was selected among the Ledger’s 2012 Movers and Shakers for making halachic Judaism accessible and inclusive.
Pollak says that he’ll most miss sharing in the lifecycle events with his congregants, more opportunities for connection. “Westport is simply a beautiful place to live and a community of incredible people and strong communal organizations,” he says. “I’ll miss being a part of it.”
Rabbi Ari Weiss, Congregation Agudas Achim, West Hartford: 2009-13
Rabbi Ari Weiss, his wife Deena, and their five children will be leaving West Hartford to make aliyah this summer. “This is something my wife and I, together with our children, have always talked and dreamed about, and although we don’t want to leave West Hartford, we are excited to be moving to Israel and, God willing, be living our dream,” Weiss says. “Serving as the rabbi of Agudas Achim has been the greatest honor and privilege I could have hoped for. I consider myself to be extremely blessed to have taken part in the history of such a fine and long-standing institution in this community, and to have known and become close with its wonderfully warm and welcoming members has been a pleasure as well as an honor that I take very seriously, and will look back upon fondly my whole life.”