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Rabbi James Prosnit

jprosnit@congregationbnaiisrael.org

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jimRabbi James Prosnit has been Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, Connecticut, since 1990.  Prior to this, Rabbi Prosnit served as Associate Rabbi at both Congregation Rodeph Sholom, New York City, and Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto, Ontario. 

He received his B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University, and M.A. degrees from New York University (Education) and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Hebrew Literature).  He was ordained from HUC-JIR in New York in 1981 and received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity in 2006.

Since 1990 he has also been an adjunct lecturer in the Religious Studies Department at Fairfield University. 

Rabbi Prosnit is involved in the rabbinic residency mentoring program for rabbinic students at HUC-JIR and has served as a mentor for the Ignatian Residential College at Fairfield University.
Among numerous community activities, Rabbi Prosnit is Past-President of Connecticut Against Gun Violence and serves as vice-chair of Operation Hope, a homeless shelter and social service agency in the Town of Fairfield.  He serves on the Inter-religious Affairs Commission and the Commission for Lifelong Learning for the Union for Reform Judaism.

Rabbi Prosnit lives in Fairfield, Connecticut, with his wife and three sons. 


Nisan/Iyar 5774
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From The
Rabbi's Desk
April 2014
Celebrating and Fostering Leadership—Professional and Lay
The Jim Abraham Education Fund

One of my favorite “left side of the page” readings from our prayer book Mishkan T’filah was written by Paula Ackerman, a woman who some consider the first female rabbi in the United States. Although she was never ordained, she performed “rabbinical functions” in congregations in Mississippi and Florida in the middle of the last century. (In 1972, Sally Priesand was the first woman to be formally ordained.)

The quote from Paula Ackerman speaks about the need to create an inspired and informed Jewish leadership—not only rabbinic, but also lay. She wrote, “We need Jews more conversant with the thought and teaching of Judaism, to whom Judaism is no cold remote theology and Hebrew learning a matter of mystical ignorance…. We need a reassertion of faith and a reawakening of interest in a cultural heritage that is all too rapidly being relegated to the exclusive possession of graduates of rabbinical seminaries.”

Her concern expressed decades ago is still a concern today. While fostering identity and positive relationships is a prime focus of the education we provide at B’nai Israel, a central goal of our Religious School and Adult Learning courses is also to raise the bar on what Jews know. We strive to cultivate future Jewish leaders (adults and children) with a solid understanding of Jewish traditions and thought, because we believe that those are tools necessary to respond to a rapidly changing Jewish community. Clearly one does not need to be a rabbi or cantor to live an educated Jewish life or to lead and inspire others.

Aside from the “in-house” offerings and verbal encouragement, we’ve also been blessed to be able to offer some financial assistance to students who wish to enhance their Jewish knowledge and learning in other venues. Such scholarships have helped some pursue careers as Jewish professionals, and others have simply been a way for us to say “we love that you are taking your Jewish learning to the next level.” Over the past decade or so, through the generosity of our Fields- Nussbaum Fund we have been able to give stipends to dozens of our college students who have taken courses in Jewish Studies. In addition, the Gillette Fund and the BIFTY Scholarship Fund have helped provide camping and Israel opportunities for worthy teens.

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This year we’re able to add an additional opportunity to the mix. We’re pleased to announce the Jim Abraham Education Fund for Jewish Leadership. It’s a unique opportunity established through the generosity of Barbara Abraham and many of Jim’s friends and will help create a cadre of “Jim Abraham fellows.” Such leadership grants will be used to support and encourage young adults who display significant interest and seriousness in their approach to Jewish values and education. Through the program, we’ll be able to send some high school and college students, as well as those in their twenties, to leadership academies, conferences, song leading institutes, and Israel programs of academic merit that are committed to the perpetuation of liberal Jewish values. We’re on the lookout for worthy recipients and worthy programs.

Rabbi Ethan and Cantor Alison
And while we’re hoping to cultivate Jewish leaders who will not necessarily become rabbis and cantors, we still take pride in the achievements of those native sons and daughters who are going on to lead the Jewish people in professional ways.
Join us at Shabbat Services on Friday, April 18, when our prayer leaders will be soon-to-be Rabbi Ethan Prosnit and soon-to-be Cantor Alison Lopatin (daughter of Richard and Gail). Both Ethan and Alison will be ordained from Hebrew Union College– Jewish Institute of Religion. It will be an opportunity for them to say thank you for scholarships that the Fields-Nussbaum Fund provided them and an opportunity for us to celebrate two future leaders of Reform Judaism!

Rabbi James Prosnit

     



 
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