Heights Jewish Center welcomes its new rabbi

Congregants of the Heights Jewish Center/Beth Hamidrosh Hagodol (HJC) will welcome their first new rabbi in 32 years when Rabbi Raphael Davidovich of Newport News, Va., takes the pulpit left empty by the late Rabbi Doniel Schur. He assumes his new position on Sept. 5.

"We had an extensive search and many wonderful candidates,” says Gershon Ireland, president of the board of directors of the HJC. "We were very fortunate to come together with Rabbi Davidovich.”

Once he settles into his new post, the rabbi anticipates building on the HJC's "biggest asset” as "one of the friendliest and most heimish synagogues I have ever encountered.” During services "the entire congregation is davening together, not just as individuals who all happen to be all in the room,” he observes. Congregants "appreciate the pace and the joy in the davening.” That friendliness and togetherness is an important aspect of Rabbi Schur's legacy upon which Davidovich plans to build.

The rabbi also plans to continue "Rabbi Schur's practice of giving sermons that have new content and keep people thinking.” Noting the sheer volume of prepackaged Judaic literature available on the Internet, he says he's committed to "delivering serious, thoughtful, novel Jewish content to my congregants and the entire community.”

A native of Montreal, Rabbi Davidovich received his rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore in 2000. He served as the rabbi of Congregation Adath Jeshurun, Newport News's only Orthodox shul, from August 2001 to the present.

This week, the rabbi moves to Cleveland with his wife Deena, daughter Shalva, 7, who will attend second grade at Hebrew Academy, and son Schlomo, 2-1/2, who will enter Hebrew Academy's preschool program. The rabbi describes his wife as "an active, full-time kind of rebbetzin who has been a partner in every aspect of my rabbinic career.” A special-education teacher by training, she was principal of the Sunday School in Newport News, managed the local mikveh, and conducted Shabbatons and outreach programs.

The couple's extensive outreach activities earned them a reputation for being "very involved, not only with our shul, but with the entire Jewish community,” Davidovich says. "We also had a very strong relationship with the Federation and the JCC in Newport News,” which the rabbi hopes to replicate here.