Ohev Shalom of Bucks County Hires New Rabbi

The sanctuary at Ohev Shalom of Bucks County (Courtesy of Rabbi Eliott Perlstein)

Ohev Shalom of Bucks County opened in 1976 and hired Eliott Perlstein as its rabbi. He served for the next 48 years.

Now, for the first time in its history, the Richboro synagogue is hiring a new spiritual leader: Rabbi Leora Kling Perkins. She starts on July 1.

The 37-year-old grew up in the Boston area and spent the last five years at Temple Emunah in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Even before starting rabbinical school in 2014, Kling Perkins spent a year at the Conservative Yeshiva in Israel, worked in Jewish and student life at the Gann Academy in Waltham, Massachusetts, and served as program coordinator in the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston’s Coalition for Literacy. During rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary, she served schools, shuls and camps in New York City, Maine and the Rocky Mountains.

Those experiences got her to Temple Emunah. But after five years as an associate rabbi, Kling Perkins felt ready for that next step. She interviewed at multiple synagogues and picked Ohev Shalom.

The young rabbi connected with congregants during her February visit. She also grew up coming to the Philadelphia area to see her aunt and uncle, who live in Abington.

“Ohev Shalom was just it,” she said.

And Kling Perkins was it for Ohev Shalom.

“She was very friendly and warm to the congregation when we had her here,” said Michael Goldstein, the synagogue’s immediate past president and a member for 11 years.

Rabbi Leora Kling Perkins (Photo by Ellen Dubin)

Kling Perkins is married to Matthew Goldstone, an assistant academic dean and teacher at the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, New York. They have a 2-year-old daughter Reena and a 10-month-old son Shalev.

When the family visited in February, they felt welcomed by the congregation.

“I felt like we were embraced so warmly and so immediately when I arrived,” the rabbi said. “That was special. That’s something I look for in a community.”

Just as importantly, they felt at home in the Philadelphia area. The rabbi’s father grew up here. Her aunt and uncle are still a 25-minute drive from Ohev Shalom.

“It feels familiar,” she said.

The family is moving in a week. Kling Perkins will start in full at Ohev Shalom around the middle of July. Goldstone can work remotely.

The Conservative rabbi will walk to synagogue. She’s shomer Shabbos. Her commitment to tradition appealed to Goldstein and other synagogue leaders, according to the past president.

But Kling Perkins also embraces the modern updates to the Conservative tradition. The Bucks County shul welcomes interfaith families and allows women on the bimah during services. Ohev will now have a female rabbi and cantor, Annelise Ocanto-Romo.

“It sets an amazing example for the community,” Goldstein said.

By the end of her weekend at Ohev in February, Kling Perkins knew many congregants by name, according to Goldstein. The rabbi’s goal during her first year will be to get to know people, she said.

Kling Perkins is aware that she’s replacing the only rabbi that Ohev has ever had. She hopes to do justice to Perlstein’s legacy.

“It’s humbling. I feel lucky to be following someone who had such a beautiful relationship with the community,” she said. “I’m here to help facilitate people having meaningful Jewish experiences.”

Those meaningful Jewish experiences are different for each person and generation, she added.

“Part of what I love about the rabbinate is the opportunity to do that. To connect with people at different points in their lives,” the rabbi concluded. “Part of it is trying to pay attention to the ways people at different points in their lives connect with the community in different ways. I try to be attuned to the ways in which the community is and isn’t supporting those different needs at different times.”

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