Rabbi Dov Foxbrunner didn’t always know he would become a rabbi when he was growing up, but his strong connection to Judaism and his suburban upbringing in Silver Spring, Md., led him to become the new assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Jacob.
After his mother died at young age, Rabbi Foxbrunner’s father, a prominent Torah scholar, raised him on notions of truth and knowledge while immersing him in music and the arts. That upbringing in a relaxed Jewish community that resembled Atlanta’s led him to develop a deep reverence for Torah scholarship and Jewish academics.
At age 18, Rabbi Foxbrunner traveled to Israel, where he studied at various yeshivas, including the famous Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Upon graduating, he formed his own kollel, which offered graduate programs and taught classes with as many as 30 students at a time.
For three years Rabbi Foxbrunner managed the administrative, financial and academic duties of the kollel.
“The opportunity taught me a lot of valuable skills and experiences and gave me a deep appreciation for Torah values,” Rabbi Foxbrunner said.
Atlanta was the future for Rabbi Foxbrunner because he was determined to give back the knowledge he had received along the way. “It took most of my life to realize what an important role a rabbi can play on both the communal and individual level. My role as assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Jacob is a fantastic opportunity to take what I gained through my years of Torah study in Israel and share that inspiration and passion with the Beth Jacob community and beyond.”
After operating the kollel in Jerusalem, Rabbi Foxbrunner was ready for another opportunity, and one of the first people he called was Beth Jacob Rabbi Ilan Feldman.
“Rabbi Feldman’s leadership abilities in the realm of community building and outreach are beloved and respected not only on a national level, but even internationally. Through his devotion and vision, Beth Jacob is known as the synagogue upon a hill, a model of a diverse yet united community that grows both in number and in spirit,” Rabbi Foxbrunner said.
Weeks later, Rabbi Foxbrunner received an email from a search committee about an opening in Atlanta. “I was very excited about the position because I was already familiar with Atlanta,” he said. “There were two openings, one in Baltimore and the other in Atlanta, but I already had a deep admiration for Rabbi Ilan Feldman and the spiritually diverse and growing community he continues to lead. The congregation and community offer a fresh and real look into Jewish content and wisdom and offer a unique experience which Rabbi Ilan’s father, Emanuel Feldman, also helped establish. It’s a real privilege to add my link to that chain.”
As with any rabbinical position, Rabbi Foxbrunner believes he has a dual purpose within the community as the assistant rabbi. The first is to humbly respond to the needs of the community, whether that means counseling, lending rabbinical guidance or coordinating with other organizations, and the second involves raising Beth Jacob’s community to the next level.
“I am delighted to join Beth Jacob during a time of change,” Rabbi Foxbrunner said, adding that the synagogue’s ongoing renovations are symbolic of his vision for the congregation. “The synagogue’s rich history stands as the groundwork, and the rebuilding of the sanctuary symbolizes our work in raising the community to the next level of growth.”
He also said, “We have a new board with young lay leaders who are passionate about getting involved with the shul and the community, which in turn allows for greater networking opportunities.”
As with any new position, Rabbi Foxbrunner anticipates positive challenges along the way and is committed to fulfilling his role as the assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Jacob. “The two biggest challenges that I foresee are also two of my biggest opportunities. There is the personal challenge making sure that I am wholly a devoted husband and father of six wonderful children and even utilizing their wonderful qualities to give to the community. And there is also the communal challenge of bringing together the strengths of a diverse congregation under one roof.
“We have both an older, more experienced demographic that is really the foundation of the community, as well as an increasing influx of young, energetic and talented couples and young families. Some of these families are Atlanta natives returning to settle, but many are attracted to our community from all over, including major Jewish cities such as New York and L.A.,”
Rabbi Foxbrunner said he looks forward with Beth Jacob members and lay leaders “to attracting a diverse community and to grow spiritually. Our goal is to take what we have and spread it out and find one roof where diversity can thrive.”