By Stacey Dresner
SPRINGFIELD – When Rabbi Jeremy Master became rabbi at Temple of Israel in Greenville, S.C., he wanted to increase the small congregation’s participation in social action projects.
Through his leadership, the congregation became a host congregation with the Greenville Area Interfaith Hospitality Network and began hosting homeless families.
“That was really important for us,” he said. “We hosted three homeless families for a week at a time three weeks out of the year. That involved a lot of our congregants making meals, sleeping over with the homeless families and providing them with hospitality and a place to sleep.”
“[Social action] is something I have become more and more passionate about…In the Talmud tzedakah is one of the most important, if not the most important of the commandments in Jewish tradition, so it is very important to me to help the poor in the work that I do.”
That won’t be hard for Master to accomplish when he becomes the spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Springfield July 1. His dedication to social action makes him a great fit at Sinai, which has an active and passionate social action committee.
“We are very excited to welcome Rabbi Master on July 1,” said Laurie Weinberg, co-president of Sinai Temple with Buff Maniscalco. “He comes to us from Temple of Israel in Greenville, S.C., where he has had great success in re-envisioning the Religious School, connecting congregants with each other, and leading social action.”
Rabbi Master, 41, and his family arrived in Longmeadow and moved into their new home just last weekend, giving him a couple of weeks to settle in, with a few meet & greets scheduled to allow him to meet congregants.
His wife, Rabbi Alana Wasserman, will soon begin serving as part-time rabbi at Gishrei Sholom Jewish Congregation in Southington, Conn. They have two daughters, Peri, 10, and Dara, 5.
A native of Long Island, N.Y., Rabbi Master graduated with a BA in Religion and the College of Social Sciences from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.
“I was a religion major in college and I got involved in Hillel, and when I was thinking about what I wanted to do the rest of my life this was the only thing that I really felt passionate about and committed to,” he explained.
After college, he attended the Hebrew Union College and was ordained in 2004.
After being ordained, he worked for two years as assistant rabbi at Temple B’nai Shalom in East Brunswick, N.J. and he served as Hillel director at Swarthmore College. Before Temple of Israel, Rabbi Master served as assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton, N.J.
Rabbi Master said that his last community in Greenville was pretty small – about 165-170 members belonged to his synagogue while the Conservative temple in town has only about 100 members.
He said he looks forward to participating in the greater Springfield community as head of Sinai.
“I know Springfield is working on a renaissance of the city and I would really like to be a part of that in terms of social justice within the community and to make sure that Springfield is a place that cares about everybody in the community.”
Weinberg said that Master made a good impression on the congregation when he interviewed for the position.
“During the interview process at Sinai he taught a wonderful Torah Study. He and his wife have two young children who are eager to join our Sinai family. All this and more makes Rabbi Master a perfect match for Sinai,” she said.
As Rabbi Master prepares to join Sinai, the congregation is saying goodbye to interim Rabbi Howard Kosovske.
“His openness, warmth, and investment in Sinai quickly made him “our Rabbi,” not our ‘interim,’” Weinberg said. “Rabbi Kosovske’s depth of experience as a spiritual leader, his love of Jewish learning, his personal warmth, and his experience in leading congregations in transitions have been invaluable. His style of leadership empowers lay leaders and congregants and has been invaluable as we prepared to select and welcome a new settled rabbi.”