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New rabbi set to inspire Floral Park temple

Some people are destined to follow in their fathers’ footsteps. The path they take might not be the most direct route, but in the end they arrive at their destination.

Rabbi Jonathan Pearl is one of those people. He did not necessarily set out to be a rabbi like his father, but what he learned along the way helps him to teach and impart his knowledge.

“I have a passionate love of Judaism and Israel and had a great desire to transmit my passion for Jewish life,” Pearl said. “I went to rabbinical school to be able to share my passion.”

Pearl took, what many would think was “the road less traveled” to get to the point where he is today as the new rabbi of Temple Sholom at 263-10 Union Turnpike in Floral Park. He took over leadership of the temple in the beginning of August after Rabbi Philip Bentley left to go to teach at a rabbinical seminary.

Before Pearl decided that his true calling was being a rabbi and moved to Temple Sholom from a temple on Long Island, he received his Ph.D. from New York University in Hebrew and Judaic Studies.

A native of Queens, Pearl, 44, was born in Fresh Meadows. At 14 he moved to Israel with his family and after completing high school he headed back to the borough and Queens College.

After NYU, where the subject of his dissertation was Jewish themes in prime-time network television programs from 1953 to 1986, Pearl and his wife, set up Jewish Televimages Resource Center, an organization that dealt with Jewish images in the media. They lectured and wrote about the Judaism and ethnicity of Hollywood’s stars, producers and writers.

Pearl and his wife, Judith, originally from Bell Park, have three children — a daughter Ayelet, 9, and two sons Eithan, 7 1/2 and Noam, 1 1/2.

“I was interested in finding a topic outside of the ordinary that addresses modernity through Jewish eyes,” he said, “and addresses our ancient heritage through modern eyes.”

He said the work was stimulating but discovered over time he wanted to share his passion for Judaism and Israel with others as well as imparting the glory of Jewish heritage. He headed to the Academy of Jewish Religion, a non-denominational seminary, now located in Riverdale in the Bronx.

The school draws its teachers from all different aspects of Judaism to bring life to the history, text and soul of the religion.

“We learned what transcends the boundaries, the full range of the religion,” Pearl said. “It was an extraordinary opportunity to engage in Jewish learning.”

He said he is starting at Temple Sholom with a great deal of anticipation and excitement about the congregation and what he wants to accomplish in the future.

“I am not easily deterred from what I want to do,” he said. “I am motivated to better people’s lives and do it in a passionate way through teaching, music, prayer, tradition and caring. All of the things that make up the human experience.”

He said he tries to bring the best out in everyone because people have everything within their grasp, he said.

“You just have to scratch the surface,” Pearl said. “Make time to do things that are important. What are our priorities? It is up to the person to decide. I want to help people with that.”

It has been said that everybody has a true calling. And from talking to and listening to Pearl, it is clear he has found his. He loves his job and imparting his knowledge on a wide range of topics stretching from Judaism to television and from music to life.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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