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New rabbi likes 'small town' Ocala

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By The Staff

Temple Beth Shalom of Ocala recently welcomed Rabbi Ephraim Rubinger to the community. He succeeds Rabbi Samuel Dov Berman,  who died last August.

Rabbi Rubinger comes to the reform congregation with a strong rabbinic academic background and a solid commitment to social service. He received his B.A. degree in Judaica and Political Science from Yeshiva University and earned a master’s in Hebrew Letters and Rabbinic Ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

He also holds a master’s of Education in Administration and Counseling from Xavier University. In addition, Rabbi Rubinger received a three-year Certificate in Psychotherapy from the Long Island Institute for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. He has done extensive work as a psychotherapist in addition to his rabbinic duties.

He has been active in the communities in which he served and a pioneer in the integration of health and religion. He created the first Jewish healing service on Long Island, N.Y., when he was at the Oceanside Jewish Center, a practice he continued when he served Congregation Beth El in Massapequa, N.Y. He also was chaplain of the Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, N.Y.

Rabbi Rubinger has created and facilitated a number of support groups. He started a cancer support group as well as a support group called “Parents of People with AIDS,” and several bereavement groups.

His concern for the homeless, impoverished and hungry led to the creation of an organization called HUB, an acronym for HaShem’s (God’s) Unfinished Business. Stressing Judaism’s long regard for the less fortunate in our midst, HUB provided weekly volunteers for soup kitchens, a choral group that performed at nursing homes and visitations for the sick and elderly. Under Rabbi Rubinger’s leadership, HUB created the Alix Rubinger Kosher Food Pantry of Long Island, still in operation serving Jews and non-Jews alike.

The rabbi is also a noted lecturer on many topics and recently taught at Temple Beth Am in Miami and at The Melton Mini Institute of Adult Jewish Studies.

In a recent interview, Rabbi Rubinger told me that he loves the “small town feel” of Ocala and that “coming to a community like Ocala is a joy.” While his first priority is to his congregation, he does expect to be involved in the Ocala community especially where he can reach out to the hungry and the poor. “Devotion and help to the less fortunate is a part of being on God’s team.”

As for Temple Beth Shalom, he wants to create worship experiences that are joyful and inspiring and bring people closer to God. He is impressed with the caring spirit of the reform congregation and its outreach programs. In addition, he wants to enrich the spiritual life of the congregation by bringing their lives to Torah and Judaism’s rich literary tradition.

While he does not see a mass Jewish exodus to the Brick City, he feels that Jews are discovering this area and that the population will continue to grow.

Though he was ordained in the Conservative Movement, he considers himself a Reform rabbi, committed to the notion of spiritual autonomy.

Rabbi Rubinger is married and he and his wife, Ruchama, live in Ocala.

Judi Siegal is a retired teacher and Jewish educator. She lives in Sun Valley with her husband, Phil.