Rabbi Rachael Bregman of Temple Beth Tefilloh in Brunswick Georgia has been named to the Jewish Daily Forward’s 2016 list of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis.
The annual list includes 32 rabbis from across the country. According to Forward Managing Editor Dan Friedman, the final list is refined from hundreds of reader nominations.
The New York-based Forward cites Rabbi Bregman’s nomination by regular Georgia visitor Gerry Hecht, who wrote: “She has created a community where only a shadow of one existed before. She’s a rabbinic delight. She embodies what an inspirational clergy person should be.”
“We were, of course, excited to see that rabbis are able to transform communities around the country,” Friedman said, “not just in the big urban coastal centers, and in communities small and large.
Brunswick is a small town an hour or so south of Savannah. Temple Beth Tefilloh has been the spiritual home for Jews there since 1886.
Yet when Rabbi Bregman, after her pilot Open Jewish Project at The Temple in Midtown came to an end, was hired for the pulpit at the South Georgia Reform congregation in 2013, she was not only its first female rabbi ever, but also its first resident rabbi in 50 years.
Friedman said Rabbi Bregman was an obvious choice for the list. “Rabbi Bregman seems to have infused a congregation with new spirit and welcome,” he said, “and we found the story of a congregant family almost moving to be close to a particular rabbi at a particular synagogue moving.”
Rabbi Bregman is the only person on this year’s list from Georgia,
Although rabbis from Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia also are on this year’s list and Alabama and Mississippi have made appearances in the past, Rabbi Bregman is only the second rabbi from Georgia to be picked by the Forward since the newspaper started the list in 2013. Congregation Bet Haverim Rabbi Josh Lesser made the list that first year.
Friedman said the chosen rabbis — presented at forward.com/series/rabbis/2016 — are champions of Jewish culture who give meaning to Judaism for their communities.
“In a time of growing secularization and general anxiety about the country’s future, the Forward selected Jewish leaders who are swimming against that tide and giving their communities a sense of strength and purpose,” he said. “These women and men are inspiring their congregations, strengthening the local community’s sense of Jewish identity, and finding new and compelling ways for Jews to connect with their history, faith and culture.”
The full list of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis 2016 can be found here: http://forward.com/series/rabbis/2016/