By Cindy Mindell
WEST HARTFORD — Rabbi Mordechai Weiss, who has served as principal of the Bess and Paul Hebrew Academy in Bloomfield since 2004, will step down from his post in June, at the close of the school year. Weiss and his wife Dvorah will make aliyah in August. A veteran Jewish educator, Dvorah is a kindergarten teacher at the Hebrew Academy and a well-known songwriter.
The Weisses have considered this move several times over the last 13 years, since one of their children made aliyah. “Jewish history is being made in Israel,” Weiss says. “I look at those of us living outside Israel like the fans at a football game, the people in the stands. The Jews in Israel are the people playing on the field. I want to play the game and be a part of Jewish history, and that means living in Israel.”
Four of the Weisses’ nine children live in Israel and a fifth, Rabbi Ari Weiss of Congregation Agudath Achim in West Hartford, will join them this summer with his family. “We decided that it’s time for the patriarch and matriarch to go also, to forge the way for the rest of our kids, who hopefully will make aliyah as well,” Weiss says.
The Weisses will make aliyah with Nefesh b’Nefesh and hope to find a rental property near Jerusalem. Rabbi Weiss plans to teach, perhaps at the girls’ school in Efrat where his daughter is an assistant principal. He may also maintain a role in the annual Hebrew Academy eighth grade trip to Israel, a curriculum highlight that he instituted at the school. Dvorah will continue to write music and is working on a book and musical. “We’re not in a rush at this stage of our lives,” Weiss says. “It will take a few months to get settled and figure out how we can make a difference in Israel.”
The Weisses have considered aliyah many times over the last several years. And although the rabbi has made some 80 trips to Israel and lived there for two years while studying at yeshiva, “I still don’t know what the everyday living is like,” he says. “A person has to believe that what they’re doing is right and understand from the outset that it won’t be easy and it won’t be a panacea and it will be rough.”
Still, the idea of living as a Jew in the Jewish state was enough to compel the Weisses to finally “walk the walk,” as the rabbi says. “Israel is an amazing country and some religious people don’t understand its special strength: even though you have observant and non-observant Jews, the country itself is a Jewish country, which means that when Purim comes along, observant or non-, everyone celebrates, everyone is dressed up, everyone is having fun in the streets. On Pesach, everyone has a seder. You turn on the radio before Shabbat or walk in the streets and everyone is saying, ‘Shabbat shalom.’ It’s a culture; even if they don’t do religious things, everyone is cognizant of the holidays and to me, that’s amazing. The fact that the Jewish people are living in a Jewish land is unbelievable, it’s historic. We are living at a time that has never been duplicated, which is a miracle, and I want to be part of that miracle.”
For inspiration, Weiss looks both to Israel’s future and the Jewish people’s distant past. “It’s a young country but it is a leader amongst all countries in many areas, and more Anglos are coming and making a difference in the society,” he says. “At the same time, it’s a challenge and it’s very daunting. But I hope that, if God guided Avraham Avinu, he will guide us also.”
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Greenwich shul cited for excellence
Temple Sholom in Greenwich received seven awards for synagogue excellence at the Metropolitan New York (METNY) Region of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s Kallah K’tanah, at Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation in Old Westbury, N.Y. on April 14. The awards recognize congregations who have developed unique, creative and dynamic programs that enhance the life of the synagogue and its congregants. In addition Temple Sholom congregant Sam Telzer of Riverside was honored with METNY’s Ernest L. Rothschild Award, presented to individuals whose special efforts, according to METNY, “affect and change people’s lives, as well as further Conservative Judaism in their congregations.”
At the Kallah K’tanah in New York are: (l to r) Temple Sholom President Ariel Manacher; Ellie Telzer; Sam Telzer, recipient of the Ernest L. Rothschild Award; Temple Sholom Senior Mitchell M. Hurvitz; as well as Sam and Ellie Telzer’s children, Alexandra and Benjamin.