By Michaela Kron
It was a rare Atlanta snow day March 1 when Congregation B’nai Torah conducted interviews for a new assistant rabbi over Skype, a software application that allows people to make telephone calls over the Internet.
That day, B’nai Torah Rabbi Joshua Heller and other members of the Sandy Springs synagogue’s search committee spoke with nine candidates in nine hours. Eytan Kenter, a 28-year-old rabbinical student from New York, stood out, and he was hired as B’nai Torah’s first assistant rabbi.
Kenter, who completed his studies at Conservative Judaism’s Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and was ordained in May, is enthusiastic about his July 1 arrival at B’nai Torah.
“I’m very excited to begin working full time,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to getting to know the community. It seems like a very warm, welcoming, special place.”
As assistant rabbi at B’nai Torah, Kenter, who holds a master’s in Jewish education, will lead the adult education program and will help integrate adult education into the life of the congregation. He also will conduct learners services for members so that they can better understand the Hebrew prayers.
In addition, Kenter will work with the synagogue’s growing religious school and teach fifth-graders. He will take ownership of the synagogue’s b’nai mitzvah program and work with students to prepare them for their bar or bat mitzvah celebrations.
When Kenter visited the synagogue and co-led a teen service, “he had a wonderful rapport with our youth,” Heller said. “He really melded very well with them.”
Kenter hopes for a positive impact on the students he will teach and interact with. “Being there when a person has an ‘a-ha’ moment is what I enjoy the most.”
Kenter has extensive experience teaching young children and teenagers at summer camps and other programs in the United States and Israel.
As part of his rabbinic training, he worked in pulpits in New York, North Carolina and Michigan. He most recently served as administrator at the official synagogue of the Jewish Theological Seminary.
At B’nai Torah, one of Kenter’s goals is to address the importance of social action and social justice in the larger community.
“What we’ve learned, especially in the last presidential cycle, is how successful community organizing can be,” he said. Kenter recently completed organizational work as a social action and public policy intern.
As his arrival at B’nai Torah approaches, Kenter is eager to join a “fabulous community.”
“It seems that they have a dynamic community that’s really intergenerational,” he said. “They understand what being a community and being a synagogue is all about.”