By Al Shams
Congregation B’nai Torah installed Rabbi Hillel Konigsburg as its associate rabbi during Friday night services Sept. 9.
The installation included Rabbi Konigsburg’s father, sister and brother-in-law, all of whom are rabbis, and continued at the next morning’s Shabbat services, during which he outlined his hope to contribute to the congregation’s understanding of Judaism and spiritual growth.
It was the latest in a series of changes at the Conservative synagogue in Sandy Springs the past three years. Most of those changes involved the physical structure, which after nearly 30 years went through an extensive renovation and expansion in response to strong membership growth since Rabbi Joshua Heller arrived as senior rabbi in 2004.
Among other improvements, the renovation enlarged and refurbished the main sanctuary, installed a loop system for people who use hearing aids, improved staff offices, added classrooms and incorporated a computerized yahrzeit board. The mikvah was rebuilt and reopened as a community facility under the management of a new nonprofit, the Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah.
Rabbi Konigsburg was hired in July to replace Rabbi Eytan Kenter, who left after six years as B’nai Torah’s first associate rabbi to become senior rabbi in Ottawa.
Rabbi Konigsburg was hired in the spring and assumed his duties at the start of July. I recently had the pleasure to visit with him and gain some insight into his life and thoughts.
The rabbi was born and raised in south Florida. He is the third of three children.
He attended Alfred List College, earning bachelor’s in sociology and Jewish history, then earned a master’s in Jewish studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
From his dad, Rabbi Konigsburg gained insight into the life of a rabbi. He saw how his dad had to handle the demands of being a spiritual leader and educator while also being a father, husband, son and friend. His dad was an important role model, showing that we all must balance various aspects of our lives and relate to different people in different ways and that, in the end, rabbis are human beings like the rest of us.
In school Rabbi Konigsburg gave serious thought to pursuing a career in sociology but ultimately decided that he could be of benefit to a congregation and that the position of a pulpit rabbi was gratifying.
He has focused on B’nai Torah’s education efforts and is serving as the education director of the religious school and the preschool. The preschool recently added a full-day Reggio Emilia program.
Teen programs are another special interest, with a focus on programs that are inclusive, embracing spiritual, social, educational and recreational themes.
Rabbi Konigsburg has known his wife, Sarah, since middle school. They have been a couple since she was at New York University while he was at Alfred List.
Besides family and synagogue, the rabbi enjoys science fiction and astronomy. He is warm, gracious, soft-spoken, compassionate and knowledgeable and appears to have the skills and desire to serve B’nai Torah’s needs.
Al Shams is a Sandy Springs resident, a member of B’nai Torah, a former CPA and an investment professional with more than 35 years of industry experience.