This spring, the Director of Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges Rabbi S. Robert Morais will be leaving for Michigan to take a new position with Temple Israel of West Bloomfield.

“The professional opportunities and challenges that await are exciting,” Morais said. “Temple Israel is the largest Reform congregation in the world.”

Morais will serve as the Director of Education and Lifelong Learning at Temple Israel, and will head a department that educates people from kindergarten through adulthood.

“I’ll be trying to spend as much time as I possibly can in the classroom,” Morais said. Morais’ time in Rochester was marked by a deep connection with the campus Jewish community. In addition to leading worship services, Morais participated in the Rochester Area Hillel Association, encompassing UR, the Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Geneseo, Nazareth College and others.

“The Hillel community is deeply saddened to see Rabbi Rob leave,” said Hillel President and junior Ilana Feldman. “He was an influential force on this campus, as well as the other campuses in the Rochester area, providing a comfortable environment to grow and learn.”

During his tenure in Rochester, Morais took part in trips to Israel for the Hillel community.

“I loved him,” sophomore Sarah Shores said. “Everybody that went to Israel with him over the past summer did, too.”

Morais was also well-liked by other faiths at the Interfaith Chapel. In his two years at the Chapel, he made an impact on both the student and religious communities.

“Rabbi Morais made great contributions to the staff and to the Hillel community,” Father Brian Cool of the Catholic Newman community said. “He has a lot of respect here.”

In Morais’ new capacity at Temple Israel, he will direct a department composed of numerous staff all focused on lifetime education. With more than 100,000 members of the Jewish community, the Detroit area is ripe for someone of Morais’ talents. Although he will be administrating his department, Morais intends to keep his focus on his congregation.

“I’ll be doing a lot of teaching,” Morais said. “I’ll be teaching basic classes on Judaism, adult classes and a high school program.”

Temple Israel is the largest synagogue of the Reform sect in the world, boasting five rabbis and numerous other staff members. Over 1,600 students currently take part in its educational programs. Additionally, over 3,200 families call the synagogue their religious home. Organized in the summer of 1941, the temple moved into its current home in 1980. Since its founding, the synagogue has been steadily growing to its current status as one of the United States’ most influential Jewish centers, home to some of the foremost members of the faith, among which Morais is sure to fit in.

“His passion for knowledge and Judaism is tangible and has affected those who have had the pleasure of knowing and learning from him,” Feldman said.

Many people at the Interfaith Chapel agree that Rabbi Morais will be difficult to replace. The process to do so has already begun, with a nationwide search. According to the university’s covenant with the Interfaith Chapel, the selection process is to be completed in consultation with Dean of Students Jody Asbury and Dean of The College William Green.

Morais has stated that he will be available to help in his own replacement process, both in the search for and training of a new rabbi.

“During this time of transition, I will continue to work with our students, staff, board, various committees, programs and events to ensure the continuity of our organization,” Morais said.

In addition to religious teaching, Morais intends to lead his congregation in worship.

“I’ll be leading services as time permits,” Morais said. “It will be something that I will have the opportunity to do on occasion.”

This could be seen as a natural extension of his work at UR, where he was instrumental in leading worship services at the Interfaith Chapel.

Rabbi Morais’ connection with the Rochester area is a deep one.

“It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges for the past two years and the Rochester Jewish community for the past nine years,” Morais said.

However, he found the opportunity in West Bloomfield to be an offer that he could not refuse.

“When it presented itself it was too good to pass up,” Morais said.

Majarian can be reached at mmajarian@campustimes.org.



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