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The Post-Standard/Neighbors City Thursday, September 9, 2010
InterFaith Works of CNY opens discussion on inter-religious marriage
By Mary Kay DeVore
Last June, Rabbi Daniel Fellman moved his family from New Brunswick, New Jersey to serve as only the fifth rabbi of Temple Concord, in Syracuse, in the last 125 years.
In just over a year, the 37-year old rabbi has taken on additional roles of service at both a local and national level.
“Syracuse has been a very welcoming and warm place for us,” said Fellman, who lives in DeWitt with his wife Melissa and their sons, 3-year old Zachary and Jacob, 1. “It is a great place to live and raise a family.”
This past spring, Fellman was elected chair of the Spiritual Care committee at InterFaith Works of Central New York and was named to the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America.
Fellman is the only rabbi from Central New York and one of the youngest to be a member of the Rabbinic Cabinet, which gives rabbis of all denominations an opportunity to share their experiences, resources, talents, and insights with each other. It is a forum for rabbis of varied ideology to meet for discussion and development and sets the stage to strengthen and unite the Jewish community.
“Bigger cities are better represented and can have multiple rabbis,” said Fellman. “This gives us a seat at a national table which would not have otherwise happened. It is nice for me personally but it is also a big deal for a community like Syracuse. I am humbled and honored to be a part of it.”
Upon the retirement of Rabbi Sheldon Ezring in July 2009, Fellman took on leadership responsibilities of the ninth oldest Jewish congregation in the country. Temple Concord was established in 1839 and is a member of the Union for Reform Judaism. Reform Judaism follows the belief that preserving tradition, following innovation, and accepting diversity are all possible and necessary for modern day existence.
It is the only Reform Jewish synagogue in the area and includes members traveling from as far as Cortland and Oswego to worship and participate in the spiritual community.
A key issue at Temple Concord and throughout the United States is interfaith families and how to help them learn and grow so that Judaism can be a positive force in their lives.
“I believe that the Temple, while needing to maintain its strong Jewish identity, needs to be a welcoming place that offers educational opportunities and programs to help interfaith families feel more connected to Jewish life,” said Fellman.
A Young Families group has been started at the Temple and it includes many interfaith families who have little or no experience with Jewish life. They have been welcomed with open arms and will soon have the opportunity to partake in classes, discussions, and programs tailored to the unique challenges interfaith families face in the world today.
Now, as chair of the Spiritual Care committee with InterFaith Works of Central New York, Fellman will be able to continue his mission and provide spiritual care and growth to those in hospitals, psychiatric facilities, nursing homes, prisons, and children’s detention centers. Support, training and education is provided to the clergy and lay pastoral caregivers who are serving those particular populations. The committee, and InterFaith Works, recognizes the dignity and value of each individual and respects the values and traditions of each faith group.
“Rabbi Fellman is a breath of fresh air in both the Jewish community and the interfaith community as well,” said Beth Broadway, executive director of InterFaith Works of Central New York. “He is brand new to town this year and stepped right up. We are very happy to have him working with us in a leadership position.”
Fellman would like to implement the successful model used by InterFaith Works at Temple Concord to bring groups together within the Temple Concord community.
“For me personally, bringing people together within communities is the path to wholeness,” said Fellman. “I hope that we can create at the Temple the kind of welcoming and understanding that has become a hallmark of interfaith dialogue.”
As a member of the Rabbinic Cabinet, Fellman will have an opportunity to learn how synagogues and rabbis nationwide have successfully welcomed interfaith families while remaining deeply committed to the ideals and principles of Jewish living.
“I hope to bring the best of these practices back to Temple Concord and to the Syracuse Jewish community,” said Fellman. “We are creating a new sense of dynamism, joy, spirit, engagement, and growth at Temple Concord and we are looking forward to building on that excitement in the coming months and years.”
About Rabbi Daniel Fellman
Name: Daniel Fellman
Family: Wife Melissa and sons Zachary, 3, and Jacob, 1
Lives in: DeWitt
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Colorado College
Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio
Served as a student rabbi at several congregations throughout the country and interned at the White House in Washington, D.C. during the summer of 1993.
Ordained in June 2005
Occupation: Rabbi of Temple Concord, 910 Madison Street, Syracuse 13210
For more information about Temple Concord visit www.templeconcord.org
What is Reform Judaism?
According to the Union for Reform Judaism, it is the belief that Judaism must adapt to current needs for ongoing survival and their commitment to Tikkun Olam, which is translates as world repair and connotes social action.
The following principles distinguish the Reform Movement from other streams of Judaism in North America: a commitment to the principle of inclusion and not exclusion; a commitment to the equality of women in all areas of Jewish life including involvement within the synagogue; a commitment to the full participation of gay and lesbian people in the synagogue as well as within society.
For more information visit the Union for Reform Judaism at www.urj.org