Temple B'nai Chaim Rabbi Karp takes helm as education director

This year's high holy days at Temple B'nai Chaim will also usher in Rabbi Molly Karp as the new education director.

"I am looking forward to leading a Yom Kippur afternoon study session on the Book of Jonah, one of the traditional Biblical readings for the Days of Awe," said Rabbi Karp. "I am very excited about using all of my skills as a rabbi and Jewish educator to support the learning and spiritual growth of the Temple B'nai Chaim community."

Temple B'nai Chaim offers religious education for grades pre-K through 10th grade and is also launching a new adult education series entitled "Come As You Are," which began Sept. 9. People may still join in.

"This exciting series will explore contemporary issues through a Jewish lens," said Rabbi Karp, who was previously the religious school principal at a reform congregation in Westchester. "This series will likely attract a combination of religious school parents, Temple B'nai Chaim members, and folks who are not members of B'nai Chaim but simply wish to learn with our clergy team ... We are hoping to attract new faces."

Rabbi Karp studied at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, The Jewish Theological Seminary, both in New York City; and the Academy for Jewish Religion in Riverdale, N.Y., where she completed her rabbinical training and was ordained as a rabbi.

The B'nai Chaim clergy team is headed by Rabbi Leah Cohen, who said, "I am looking forward to working with Rabbi Karp to build upon the success of our religious school program."

An all-women team at a temple is not unusual, according to Rabbi Karp. "It is not unusual for both the rabbi and the education director of a congregation to both be women," she said. "I am already finding that working with Rabbi Cohen is a real joy. The fact that both of us enjoyed training at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality has given us a shared language and outlook on our work in the Jewish community."

Rabbi Karp is the temple's second full-time education director, succeeding Rabbi Shoshana Hantman.

To Rabbi Karp, Jewish education is "my calling. My primary goals are to support families, faculty members, and the leadership of the temple in our shared efforts to raise the children of our community to be committed and caring Jews. I hope to accomplish these goals by providing excellent Jewish educational experiences to the children, providing support for members' Jewish learning and parenting concerns, and for the professional development needs of all who work with our children.

"I plan as well to offer classes for religious school parents, as well as adult education courses."

How would Rabbi Karp describe the new adult education offerings at Temple B'nai Chaim?

"They are expansive and inclusive," she said. "There will be opportunities for adults to learn Hebrew, see a new movie and discuss it, read a new book together, or take part in one of the many lectures or workshops."

Temple B'nai Chaim, at 82 Portland Avenue, has seen growth in recent years, with a congregation of about 250 families, representing approximately 1,000 men, women and children, according to Rabbi Cohen. In 2010, the temple added a new 9,000-square-foot facility to accommodate the growth and allow for expanded classes and programs.

"We continue to receive inquiries from people who are interested in learning more about Temple B'nai Chaim, and I expect that after religious school classes begin we will be meeting and greeting new families and students," Rabbi Karp said. "Although some of our high holiday services take place at Wilton High School and require tickets, many of our high holiday services take place in our new, beautiful sanctuary, looking out at the tranquil wetlands that are behind our windows."

"These services, the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Children's services, second day Rosh Hashanah, and Yizkor are open to the public. We ask only that folks call the temple office to let us know they will be coming."

To Rabbi Karp, that spirit is the hallmark of Temple B'nai Chaim.

"For more than 30 years, Temple B'nai Chaim has welcomed and connected diverse individuals into a warm and inclusive community focused on the traditions of Reform Judaism," she said. "I am happy to have been invited to join this dynamic community in partnership with Rabbi Cohen and Cantor Jon Sobel. We share a collaborative approach to serving the congregation as a team."

Information: 203-544-8695, or templebnaichaim.org