EXCITED about his third pulpit on as many continents, Rabbi Yonatan Sadoff, the new rabbi at Masorti (Conservative) congregation Kehilat Nitzan, aims to attract more young people to the shule.
US-born Rabbi Sadoff, who has served congregations in his home city of Minneapolis and in southern Israel, sees his “international” professional development as a good fit for 19-year-old Kehilat Nitzan in North Caulfield, Melbourne’s only Conservative shule.
The film studies graduate felt “a spiritual awakening” to become a rabbi. After s’micha from Masorti’s Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem in 2008, he returned to work in Minneapolis.
At Adath Yeshurun, he introduced “creative innovations to draw loosely affiliated Jews — who had become disconnected and disaffected — in a meaningful way closer into the community and back to their Jewish roots”.
Setting up programs for young families, Rabbi Sadoff also taught in his favourite field, Jewish mysticism, his Kabbalah classes at a kosher cafe becoming a drawcard. “I have a passion for Jewish spiritual practice … our Jewish experience should be a mind, body and soul experience.”
Israel beckoned, and in 2012 he took up a rabbinic post at Magen Avraham, a congregation at Omer, near Beersheba. He found Israeli Masorti “culturally different”.
“In Israel, a rabbi was expected to be more of an educator and administrator,” he said. Developing a working relationship with the local Orthodox rabbi, he served the needs of the wider Jewish community in Omer, but also embraced activist roles, such as supporting the egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel and meeting MKs to discuss issues of importance to Masorti Judaism.
Six years on, the latest, perhaps greatest adventure has begun in geographically distant Melbourne, which Rabbi Sadoff, his wife Merav, now a PhD student at Monash University, and their children two-year-old Tiferet and eight months-old Maayan, call home.
Rabbi Sadoff aims to introduce the wider Jewish community to “the challenge and uniqueness of Masorti Judaism in Australia”, particularly through the Noam youth movement and the Marom social, cultural and religious program for 20-30s.
Nitzan president Zvi Civins said Rabbi Sadoff “brings to our kehilah a great depth of Jewish knowledge, commitment to Masorti values, a strong connection to Israel and the desire to grow our community.
“Together with his wife Merav, a talented writer and teacher, Rabbi Sadoff will provide valuable opportunities to all our members to learn and grow as Jews. This is a new era for our shule.”