New Rabbi for Congregation Tifereth Israel

Irwin Huberman to be installed as leader of Glen Cove synagogue on Sunday.

By Dana Klosner, Neighbor
May 12, 2010 9:25 am ET | Updated May 13, 2010 1:33 pm ET
New Rabbi for Congregation Tifereth Israel

May 16 will mark a historical day for Congregation Tifereth Israel in Glen Cove as Rabbi IrwinHuberman is slated to officially become the synagogue’s new leader.

Huberman, 56, comes to the synagogue as a second career rabbi. Since February 2007, he has been serving the congregation as a full-time student rabbi and he will officially be ordained as a rabbi at the Academy for Jewish Rabbis (AJR) on Thursday night.

Huberman, a former newspaper publisher, recalled that he became inspired to pursue a new path in his life thanks to his wife and a video about changing careers.

“I changed careers when I was 49,” Huberman said. “I was living in Edmonton, Canada and I was a speech writer for the Department of Environment. My wife came home from a Jewish Women’s conference in Vancouver where she saw a presentation on people who decided to change careers. She said, ‘You have to see this tape.We’re going to move to New York, where most of the seminaries are, and you’re going to train to become a rabbi.’ As soon as I saw it, I knew it was something I wanted to do.”

Huberman began working part-time in Edmonton shortly after and he commuted to New York during the week.

“A Jewish person tries to leave the world better than before,” he explained. “If you were raised in the late 60s or early 70s, you are always looking at ways to make the world a better place.”

“A lot of people around age 50 look to change careers,” he added. “There was a rabbi in Edmonton that told me if I didn’t do it, I would look back and say what could have been.”

And officials at the congregation said they knew Huberman was the right fit from the first day he came in and ran a service. The conservative congregation is the oldest continually running one on Long Island, having been in existence for 113 years.

“We are a small congregation and we were looking for a rabbi through traditional sources, but we weren’t happy with our choices,” explained Bill Friedlieb, the former president of the congregation and chairman of its Rabbi Search Committee. “We started to look outside the traditional choices and one of our calls was to the Academy for Jewish Rabbis and they told us to give Rabbi Huberman a try, so we did. He spoke a language people understood and he did not speak above heads. From day one, we knew we wanted him back.”

Since the time Huberman took over the congregation, Friedlieb said, it has grown from 150 to 210 member families. Some of the growth, many said, should be attributed to Huberman’s friendly style.

“On Friday nights we have a musical service with guitar and drums,” Huberman said. “We hold the service in a large social hall with the seats in a semi-circle and we have guest musicians. On Saturday mornings, I come off the bimah and walk to the middle of the pews and explain things. I make the rabbinate more approachable. I explain why certain prayers are where they are and I empower people with knowledge rather than make Judaism a mysterious religion.”

Huberman’s installation ceremony is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. and it is open to the community. Rabbis and officials from Israel, the Netherlands and United Kingdom as well as Canada are expected to attend. 

“It’s like a wedding,” Friedlieb said. “The congregation is announcing in a public way that this is a marriage between the rabbi and the community.”

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