Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners is preparing to welcome its new senior rabbi on July 1.
Rabbi David Wilfond next week is scheduled to arrive from Israel, where he has held the position of rabbi in residence at the Abraham Geiger Rabbinical College's Jerusalem campus for 13 years.
He also held positions at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem as director of admissions, and at the Union for Reform Judaism as director of education for the North American Federation of Temple Youth in Israel.
“We are thrilled to welcome Rabbi Wilfond to our community,” said Karen Spiegel, president of Temple Shaaray Tefila. “Rabbi Wilfond will build on our strengths and expand our horizons through his recognized leadership, deep knowledge of Judaism, and innovative ideas.”
Rabbi Wilfond will become the second senior rabbi in Temple Shaaray Tefila’s 43-year history. The congregation’s current senior rabbi, Rabbi David Greenberg, will become rabbi emeritus this summer, after serving in the role for 43 years.
“Rabbi Wilfond is a man of integrity, a man of kindness, and a man of significant Jewish learning,” Rabbi Greenberg said. “He is going to lead this congregation in a positive, fulfilling direction.”
The newrabbi brings a broad array of talents, experiences and achievements that span four continents and include congregational leadership, teaching, and pastoral care positions, temple officials said.
A graduate of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Rabbinical Seminary, the University of Florida, and Rutgers University, Rabbi Wilfond has served as the rabbi for congregations in the city of Kiev in Ukraine, Wellesley, Massachusetts, and London, England.
Rabbi Wilfond grew up in Edison, New Jersey, where, at a young age, he taught Hebrew School, led the Junior Congregation, and served as the Temple youth group president. While a student at Rutgers University, he taught simultaneously at two Hebrew schools and was a founding member of the Rutgers Progressive Zionist Caucus. After earning a bachelor’s of science degree with honors, Rabbi Wilfond received a full scholarship for a master’s program at the University of Florida in Gainesville. While studying there, he received the Hillel award for Outstanding Jewish Leader in the State of Florida.
Rabbi Wilfond is married to Deborah Wilfond, a lawyer, yoga instructor and writer of a weekly blog called “Mindful Torah.” In 2010, they moved to her native England, where he served as the associate rabbi at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London. After their son Isaac was born, the Wilfonds returned to Jerusalem where David worked for seven years as the director of education for NFTY in Israel. In addition to Isaac, they have two other children, Eliora and Rafi, who were born in Jerusalem. The Wilfonds say they also have a Hebrew-speaking cat named Ruby.
Rabbi Wilfond said he looks forward to being a part of the Temple Shaaray Tefila community.
Among his priorities as he begins his tenure are educational innovation, lifelong learning and inclusive programming, according to temple representatives.
“I am honored to be joining such a vibrant congregation characterized by a deep commitment to Jewish values and a powerful sense of community,” Rabbi Wilfond said. He added, “I am excited to build upon the incredible legacy of Rabbi David Greenberg to create a congregation grounded in meaning, belonging, and Jewish values.”
Temple Shaaray Tefila is a Reform synagogue that is described as having a traditional spirit. Founded in 1976, it is the largest synagogue in northern Westchester, serving more than 600 families.
Rabbi Wolfond’s arrival is not the only change occurring at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Rabbi Jason Nevarez, who has served as a rabbi there for 17 years, is leaving. He has accepted the position of senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego, California.
As for Rabbi Wilfond, he has a particular attachment to the region that should make for an easy transition. “I was born and raised in New Jersey and am thrilled to be returning home closer to family and friends, the wonderful community of Westchester County, and the best bagels in the world,” Rabbi Wilfond said.