New Rabbis Installed at Main Line Reform Temple

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Main Line Reform Temple introduced Rabbi Geri Newburge to its Wynnewood congregation just last year. A year later, they’ll be installing Rabbi Kevin Kleinman as well.

Main Line Reform Temple introduced Rabbi Geri Newburge to its Wynnewood congregation just last year. A year later, they’ll be installing Rabbi Kevin Kleinman as well.
Kleinman, 36, of Mount Airy, who served the past seven years as the associate rabbi at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel (KI) in Elkins Park, will be director of education and head of the religious school.
“I’ve learned a tremendous amount from the team I’m part of at KI,” he said.
Kleinman’s journey began in Virginia, where his family was one of the first members at Temple B’nai Shalom in Fairfax Station. In addition to Rabbi Amy Perlin having a big influence on his life, his parents, David and Sandi Kleinman, did as well.
His father was president of the shul for four years and, as they got more active in it, so did he. But what really drew him in was the youth programming done by the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), which he joined in ninth grade. His friends at school didn’t understand why he would skip soccer games.
“I would tell my friends I was going to be Jewish,” Kleinman said.
At 17, he became the NFTY Mid-Atlantic Region president and continued to attend numerous events, which fostered his love for Judaism. While he was only a teenager, he knew he was interested in social justice and giving back.
After graduating from Brandeis University in 2002 with a degree in sociology, he worked as a Jewish environmental educator at the Teva Learning Center in Falls Village, Conn. There he met his wife, Chana Rothman, a musician.Besides for music and Judaism, they share a love for the outdoors.
Teaching texts, Torah and spirituality to kids while camping and hiking was a life-changing experience, he explained. “That opened up a new world for me.
“If we think about what is our responsibility as human beings in relation to the created world,” he added, “it’s really to care for it.”
While in rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College in New York City, he continued his love for camp and Judaism.
From 2005 to 2008 he served as the program director and Judaism studies director for the outdoor adventure program at URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, N.Y.
After working at a few different shuls as a rabbinic intern and student rabbi, he landed at KI in 2009. He said KI was a good experience, but is ready for a new chapter in his life.
“I feel the energy here,” he said, referring to Main Line Reform. “I get to be a part of a really exciting team.”
Newburge, 42, of Bala Cynwyd, grew up in South Florida with aspirations of becoming a doctor. However, after taking chemistry and physics at the University of Miami, she realized it was not for her.
So she switched gears and changed her major to Jewish studies. She graduated with a degree in religious studies in 1994 and moved to California a year later to pursue a master’s degree in religion at the Claremont School of Theology.
She received her degree in May 1997.
While in school, she toyed with the idea of becoming a rabbi, which surprised many of her friends, including her parents, Larry and Idelle. With the encouragement of her professor, Bill Clements, she followed her dreams.
“Everyone was a little surprised, but everyone has always been supportive,” she said.
During her first year of rabbinical school in 1998, she met her husband, Eric Goldberg, in Israel; he also was studying to be a rabbi. Goldberg is the director of the religious school at Shir Ami in Newtown.
“I’m still surprised that I was there,” Newburge said. “Being a rabbi allows me to accomplish my life goals and dreams in a way that’s very complementary to my skill sets and strengths.”
As she finished school in 2003, she looked for a job in Florida, hoping to return home, but nothing was available.
She found a few openings in Philadelphia, which was closer to her husband, who grew up in Bucks County.
She accepted an associate rabbi position at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, N.J., where she worked from 2003 to 2013.
She was involved in programming, social action and the religious school and said the experience helped prepare her for Main Line Reform.
“I was really fortunate that I wasn’t relegated to one specific portfolio,” she said.
She knew it was time to move on and took some time off before taking her next step. Newburge began a part-time chaplaincy position with the Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice in Marlton, N.J.
Hearing people’s stories was uplifting and moved her emotionally, she noted.
“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “It sort of reframed my whole perspective on life.”
Around the same time she started there, Rabbi David Straus offered her an interim role, but she declined because of the chaplaincy. So, he suggested she work part time, and she did both jobs. Eventually, a full-time role opened up at the shul, which she accepted.
Now closer to her husband, Newburge said this is her last stop.
While there are 1,100 families in the shul, it’s a close-knit community, she said.
“At the beginning of the year, nobody knew who I was or what to make of me, and now, when we have car lines on Sunday for religious school, everybody waves and knows who I am,” she said.

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