|Touro Synagogue welcomes Rabbi Marc and Jacqueline Mandel|
|By Nancy Kirsch|
|Friday, 17 August 2012 14:18|
|Local Jewish community’s intimate nature appeals to couple|
PROVIDENCE – Within days of moving from California to Newport, Rabbi Marc Mandel, Touro Synagogue’s new rabbi, and his wife Jacqueline (Jackie) Mandel say that they already relish life in Rhode Island.
Although having family nearby – most of Rabbi Marc’s family as well as many of their grown children live on the East Coast – Jackie described Touro Synagogue as “a place rich in history and a big draw.”
“We want to be the couple that are approachable,” she said. She is eager that people “feel welcome and not intimidated. We want to make our mark on the community of Newport and make a difference in people’s lives.”
The Jewish Voice & Herald interviewed the couple in Providence, a city they will likely come to know well: Their youngest son Carmi, age 12, will attend Providence Hebrew Day School.
The couple, who met some 26 years ago at Jerusalem Pizza on Broadway in Manhattan, are today the parents of six children, who range in age from 23 to 12. They also have one son-in-law.
They were students when they met – Jackie was studying at Stern College and Rabbi Marc at Yeshiva University (YU).
With two uncles who are rabbis and his abiding interest in Torah studies, he said that entering rabbinical school was “a natural fit. I was interested in Torah studies and in learning more, as well as teaching.”
Ordained at YU, Rabbi Marc also holds a master’s in social work in community organizing and development from YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and a doctor of ministry degree in congregational studies from Bangor Theological Seminary in Bangor and Portland, Maine.
Although Jackie said that she never expected to be a rebbitzen (rabbi’s wife), she added, “It didn’t matter what field he was going to go into. You love the person, not the career chosen…I thought it’d be an adventure.”
And it has been an adventure – including “tours of duty” in such geographically distant cities as Memphis, Tenn.; Portland, Maine and Beverly Hills, Calif.
Rabbi Marc was explicit about his wife’s contributions, regardless of which synagogue they are serving.
“As the rabbi of a congregation, I can’t accomplish anything without Jackie; she’s an amazing partner in everything I do,” he said. Playing a major role as a rabbi’s wife, “she’s very outgoing… all our successes – wherever we’ve been – have been because we’ve worked as a team,” said Rabbi Marc. “I look to her for direction.”
After New York, they first moved to Memphis, home to one of the country’s largest Orthodox communities, said the rabbi. In Memphis, he was a rabbi at Baron Hirsch Congregation and director of the synagogue’s summer camp, which Rabbi Marc said is the nation’s only Orthodox summer camp in the South.
Four years later, they relocated to Portland, where he was the senior rabbi at Shaarey T’philoh.
During his time in Maine, Rabbi Marc served on the Beit Din (Rabbinical Court) of Massachusetts where he addressed issues of kashrut, conversions, marriages, divorces, etc., and he was the president of the Va’ad Hakashruth of Portland.
When Jackie’s family ties beckoned, they moved to Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, Calif., where they stayed for 16 years. “The Valley Village, Calif. area – near Beverly Hills – was Jackie’s home,” said Rabbi Marc, “and her parents helped raise our young children.”
Of Touro, Jackie said, “I feel that the synagogue stands for religious tolerance,” and noted a need for tolerance among Jews whose observances of religious practices may vary.
“We want people to feel comfortable where they are at,” she said.
When asked about their respective strengths and weaknesses and how each of them might complement the other, Rabbi Marc spoke first. “I work well with synagogue services and reading and leading Torah,” he said. “Jackie is very hospitable and invites people into our home for Shabbat meals.”
Jackie, who likes to cook and “go all out” when it comes to cooking for friends and family, added, “I’m very direct. I say what’s on my mind. People open up to me because I open up to them.”
In contrast, Rabbi Marc described himself as a bit more private. “We have both [elements] of a team working to create a complete spiritual environment,” he said.
Expressing a desire to continue to build on the accomplishments of Rabbi Mordechai Eskovitz, who recently retired, Rabbi Marc said that he is eager to collaborate with the synagogue’s leadership and board members to accomplish the organization’s goals.
“It’s more intimate here [than at the much larger Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills] and easier to get to know people,” said Jackie. “We can have a more personal relationship with families.”
And families are on the couple’s radar, both at Touro and beyond. At Touro, Carmi “belts out songs at shul,” said Jackie. “I see smiles on people’s faces when a young voice is singing… We can bring life to the shul that really needs it.”
Beyond Touro, Jackie volunteers with YU Connects and Saw You at Sinai, Orthodox Jewish matchmaking services, she said. Responsible for a half-dozen matches, Jackie also made the match for their daughter Kayla!
The couple “wants [Touro] to be a vibrant living congregation, with groups of children and adults for Shabbatons,” said Rabbi Marc. “Nothing is more exciting than seeing membership grow and seeing new families coming in.”
WATCH http://vimeo.com/10286445, a video of the Mandels’ March 2010 Tiferet Award from Beth Jacob Congregation.