Rabbi Joseph Prass, who was named the new spiritual leader at West Cobb’s Congregation Ner Tamid this summer, began his Jewish journey in the Reform youth movement, which led to jobs in education, youth, camping and synagogues. In these settings he learned how meaningful and vibrant Jewish life could be.

Before he was ordained in 1999, Rabbi Prass was the regional director of the North American Federation of Temple Youth. He since has served various congregations and has worked with a diverse population before becoming a senior rabbi.

Rabbi Joseph Prass

Rabbi Joseph Prass

He combines his duties at Congregation Ner Tamid with a job at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Midtown, where he brings Holocaust and Jewish heritage programming to area synagogues.

Being a rabbi today presents different challenges from those Rabbi Prass grew up with in Minnesota more than 30 years ago. We live in a more mobile society in which people change jobs, residences and places of worship frequently.

A large portion of Jewish Atlanta is composed of transplants seeking new affiliations but with the same qualities of the houses of worship in which they grew up.

Living as a Jew in a predominantly Christian world presents daily challenges. Rabbi Prass said that educating gentiles is an ongoing process, and it is important not to treat people who have different views as outcasts.

Rabbi Prass has built his rabbinate around education, inclusion and a positive disposition.

While the Mourner’s Kaddish for the dead and Mi Shebeirach for the sick are common elements in Shabbat services, Rabbi Prass has added an uplifting spin at Ner Tamid: He asks congregants what they have celebrated during the week. People then look forward to the next week and what they have to celebrate and be thankful for.

Rabbi Prass strives to work with all ages and stages of the community through education to strengthen congregation members’ commitment to Judaism.

Ner Tamid’s previous Rabbi Tom Liebschutz retired in July.