Volunteer Spotlight: Ben Abrams

Ben Abrams had stepped up his volunteering this past year at Emanuel Congregation. He began serving as one of two facilitators for the Saturday morning Talmud class and often volunteers as a lay leader for Shabbat services. “I feel good about assisting a small, but robust, community like Emanuel,” Ben says. “There are many great, well-intentioned people like Cantor Shelly. She has given me many opportunities to lein and give divre Torah. By volunteering at Emanuel, I got experience teaching adult learners, from facilitating ‘Talmud-by-the-Lake’ on Shabbat mornings.”

Emanuel Congregation is where Ben began reconnecting with Judaism as an adult after several years of only celebrating the High Holidays and Passover. He became a regular at Shabbat services and soon joined Rabbi Michael Zedek’s Biblical Hebrew class.

“I started coming to Emanuel because it was near where I live,” Ben says. “I continued coming because I found Jewish learning and worship fulfilling. I still feel that way. The thing that I like most (about Emanuel) is that some of the people are so friendly and accepting. Unfortunately some Jewish communities are the opposite.”

Wanting to deepen his knowledge of Judaism, he enrolled in Hebrew Seminary in Skokie in summer 2018 while continuing to work as a computer science tutor at a local community college. Rabbi Craig Marantz and Cantor Shelly Friedman wrote recommendations for his admissions.

In 2019, Ben led his first service at Emanuel.

“The first time I led services I was nervous, but the congregation was very supportive,” he explains. “It was also very exciting, and I wanted to do it again. I quickly came to understand that preparing to lead a service requires a certain amount of work after leading more and more services. Many people don't realize all the clergy go through to produce Shabbat and the Holidays.”

Ben felt like he had found his calling. In 2022, he applied Hebrew Union College and was accepted to the program. He’ll begin his rabbinical studies in Jerusalem in summer 2023. In his free time, Ben enjoys spending time with his wife and toddler daughter and working out at the gym.

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