Rabbi Adam Starr, spiritual leader of Congregation Ohr HaTorah, has joined the Atlanta Jewish Academy high school Judaic studies faculty on a part-time basis.
Head of school Rabbi Ari Leubitz said of the new hire, “He follows in a long line of Yeshiva University Modern Orthodox rabbis as a staunch supporter of high-level women’s Torah study.” As he teaches honors Gemara to the high school junior and senior girls, “Rabbi Starr will elevate Torah learning for these young women, and we know they are beyond excited!”
He has been teaching classes virtually three days a week – one class is 40 minutes and the others, 50 minutes – since AJA began school last month.
Starr said he believes teaching will enhance his community work. “It’s a new challenge and something I believe to be a part of the mission of my synagogue. Day schools are a vital element of modern Orthodoxy. The success of day schools is essential to our philosophy.”
Plus, AJA is training the next generation of modern Orthodox leaders who will support Ohr HaTorah and other similar institutions, Starr said. “This is a unique new opportunity and a challenge for me to teach high school students. I hope I can give them the skills and love of studying Torah.”
About half of his class are congregants, including his daughter, which offers the rabbi a chance to connect in deepening new relationships. “For me, that’s really important, to connect with teenagers within the congregation.”
Leubitz reiterated Starr’s connection to the school.
“Not only is Rabbi Starr a community leader focused on adult education, he is also deeply invested in the growth of our youth and specifically their growth in Torah learning. He is a proud AJA parent (of current students and alumni), and he and Talya are regular fixtures (pre-COVID!) at all AJA events and programs.”
Leubitz told the AJT having a congregational rabbi on staff is not common. “They tend to do drop-ins, but not be a member of the faculty.”
Starr has been the spiritual leader of Ohr HaTorah – formerly Young Israel of Toco Hills – since 2008. Under his leadership, the synagogue’s membership has grown to 240 member units, according to its website.
He said AJA approached him to lead the class after its previous teacher decided not to continue. “I feel very strongly about Jewish education. This is my way to help. Talmud is something that I spent a lot of time studying in my Orthodox rabbinical training. This is an area that I thought I could contribute to by teaching at AJA.”
Leubitz said of the position, “Content knowledge as an AJA educator is essential. Equally important for me is the ability of our educators to model our values, serving as a role model and being able to inspire our students. Rabbi Starr is someone who embodies this and thus was a natural fit. I made the ask and am so grateful that the rabbi agreed.”
The position brings Starr full circle. Before he became a congregational rabbi, he thought he would be a day school teacher, he said.
Starr served on the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, its Atlanta Regional Beth Din for Conversion, and he is the past president of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association.
He grew up in Silver Spring, Md., and studied at Yeshivat Sha’alvim in Israel for two years. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Yeshiva College and has rabbinical ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University. Before coming to Atlanta, Rabbi Starr was the associate rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in New York for eight years.