When Rabbi John Franken signed on as Bolton Street Synagogue's interim rabbi last July, he had every intention of providing a seamless transition to its next religious leader.
It was only about five months later that he
learned that no transition would be necessary because the long-term solution was ... him.
Installed as the Roland Park synagogue's permanent rabbi in December, Rabbi Franken is eager to make his imprint on a community that not only welcomed him with open arms, but also shares many of his beliefs when it comes to openness and inclusiveness in the Jewish community.
"It's a community that cares deeply about social justice and tikkun olam.
People are prepared to ask deep questions and search for meaningful answers about the most basic and important questions in life," said Franken
"These are all values that I care about very deeply and wanted to be part of."
Rabbi Franken brings with him 10 years of rabbinical experience at three different synagogues.
Since arriving at Bolton Street
created a potpourri of programming that includes weekly sessions of "Taking Hold of Torah," where congregants deeply explore the Torah and related literature and commentaries, and "A Current Affair," which allows individuals to discuss Jewish viewpoints as they relate to current events and social issues.
also redesigned the synagogue's b'nai mitzvah program, laid the ground work for strengthening its religious education initiatives - both formal and informal - and sparked civic engagement on issues such as marriage equality and gun violence.
When it comes to the synagogue's appreciation of Rabbi Franken, Carrey-Beaver recalls the response of many congregants after the rabbi's first High Holiday services at Bolton Street.
In addition to being familiar with the city - Rabbi Franken obtained his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore - a central reason why he felt a strong connection to the Bolton Street community lies in the fact that it is, in large part, a young group that is still taking shape.
"Its identity is still in some degrees in formation," said Rabbi Franken, a native of New Haven, Conn. "That offers a great degree of fluidity and flexibility that in some older synagogue cultures is a lot harder to shape or transform.
I think that's one of the really exciting aspects of being a rabbi of this very unique community."
While Rabbi Franken certainly has plenty of fresh ideas, he said that a main function of his role is engendering an open dialogue with Bolton Street congregants to ascertain what programming they would like to take part in.
takes a great deal of pride in leading the way, but at the same time he
says the onus is on him to pay attention to the community, get to know those who comprise it and accept them for who they are and where they are in their own Jewish journeys.
Rabbi Franken emphasizes that every synagogue is a work in progress, and at the same time, so is he.
"A rabbi is so many things," he