JJC Goes West For New Rabbi

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New JJC rabbi, Ben Herman, in front of a stone sculpture in his Tucson synagogue. Plaque reads, in Hebrew, “The heroes of Israel shall never be forgotten.”
New JJC rabbi, Ben Herman, in front of a stone sculpture in his Tucson synagogue. Plaque reads, in Hebrew, “The heroes of Israel shall never be forgotten.”

In June, Rabbi Herman, 30, is getting married, and shortly after, he will move from Tucson, Arizona, with his wife, Karina, to Jericho, where he will assume his new post at the JJC.

For the past three years, Herman has been assistant rabbi of Anshei Israel, the premier Conservative synagogue of Tucson, which just celebrated its 83rd anniversary in the city with a congregation of 585 families.

The Jewish population of Tucson is approximately 22,000.

“We’re going to look beyond Jericho to attract members to the JJC,” Rabbi Herman says. “And we want to encourage parents as well as children to enable the whole family to enjoy the religious experience. “Our opportunity is to make going to synagogue engaging and fun for the whole family,” he continued.

Commenting on the selection of the new rabbi, JJC Board President Mark Wilkow says, “People will be invigorated by his youth. These are truly dramatic times for Judaism, and we expect Rabbi Herman to help us move forward in providing a connection between our well-established traditions and modern, conservative Judaism.”

The new JJC rabbi grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with degrees in history, Hebrew and Jewish studies, and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York with a masters degree in Jewish education and rabbinic ordination. His thesis was on Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, who Rabbi Herman says embodied the combination of deep conviction to Judaism and involvement with society and contemporary issues in the world.

The first in his family to pursue a career in Judaism, the rabbi says he was motivated at an early age by encouraging mentors.

“Growing up,” he recalls, “I connected with my rabbi and cantor and decided I wanted to commit myself to Judaism.”

In his leisure time, the rabbi enjoys hiking and running; acknowledging his Wisconsin roots, he says he’s always been a fan of the Green Bay Packers.

Reminded that his new home is in an area of the country not noted for its Packers fans, Rabbi Herman says, with a laugh, “I guess I’ll have to start reading up about the Mets and the Giants!”

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