Sunday, June 02, 2002

11 rabbis ordained

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As a newly ordained rabbi, 48-year-old Alan Freedman will serve as parent, counselor, disciplinarian and spiritual leader for Temple Beth Shalom in Austin, Texas.

        Rabbi Freedman, who starts his new position in July, looks forward to being their everything — the man who leads fund-raisers, settles family disputes and helps hundreds celebrate births, weddings, bar mitzvahs and the high holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

        The former lawyer wants to be there even when his new congregation of 86 families merely need a shoulder to cry on.

        “The only word that I keep coming back to is "blessing.' That's a challenge that we all understand and relish,” he said.

        Rabbi Freedman of Wyoming was one of 11 Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion students to be ordained Saturday at Plum Street Temple, downtown. More than 200 people attended the three-hour ceremony that included religious songs and readings from the Torah.

        Afterward, the new rabbis — seven men and four women — walked into the street and embraced, celebrating five years of intense religious study.

        Rabbi Freedman was swarmed by at least 30 relatives and members of Rockdale Temple, where he has served as an intern rabbi for the past two years.

        Being ordained “is taking on a very heavy responsibility, (but) it's the culmination of a dream,” he said.

        This year, HUC-JIR ordained 31 rabbis, including 20 at its New York and Los Angeles campuses.

        “He'll be a terrific rabbi,” said Rabbi Kenneth E. Ehrlich, dean of HUC's Cincinnati campus. “He has a wonderful sense of values. He has impeccable integrity. He has a terrific heart. And he knows ... he has to be guided by wisdom.

        “The fact that he's older means that people recognize that he has experience. While all our students will have to ... earn the trust of their congregants, I think Rabbi Freedman will earn their confidence and trust a little bit faster.”

        Rabbi Freedman was vice president of the Atlanta-based National Center for Professional Training, which provides paralegal training, when his wife, Lori, started nudging him toward rabbinical school.

        The idea was shelved as the couple thought about the sacrifices they would have to make. In the end, however, Rabbi Freedman made the switch.

        As part of HUC's program, the Freedmans and their three daughters, then 9 to 14 years old, spent a year in Jerusalem. They grew closer, tied together by their love for each other and Judaism.

        Four years ago, the family moved to Cincinnati, where those ties were challenged by Rabbi Freedman's studies, internship and family responsibilities.

        The five-year journey was worth every minute, Mrs. Freedman said. She woke up Saturday morning with the stark realization that ordination day had finally arrived.

        “I can't believe it's June 1, 2002. It's been this surreal date for five years,” she said.

        Mrs. Freedman held her husband's hand and helped him fix his robes before Saturday's ceremony.

        For her part, she never expected to be a rabbi's wife. But she looks forward to embarking on a new journey for the second half of their lives.

        “He is a mensch — just a really good person,” she said. “I watch him in awe. He listens well. He's compassionate. He's very smart. He has a good business sense. All that's important.”


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