Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Rabbi Beni Krohn, of Young Israel of Teaneck, has been elected president of the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County (RCBC), succeeding Rabbi Zev Goldberg, rabbi of Young Israel of Fort Lee, who is concluding a two-year term. The RCBC is a vaad, or board of rabbis. Its primary function is to oversee local kashrut. It also runs a conversion beit din.

A YU/RIETS graduate, Rabbi Krohn grew up in Newton, Massachusetts. His first rabbinic internship was at Congregation Beth Aaron, with Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, from 2008 to 2009. He then served for two years as assistant rabbi at Brith Sholom Beth Yisrael in Charleston, South Carolina, and then returned to Teaneck in 2012 and joined Congregation Rinat Yisrael as assistant rabbi, and taught at TABC. He began his role as senior rabbi at Young Israel of Teaneck in 2014. He now holds the title of mashgiach ruchani at Yeshiva University, and teaches public speaking in RIETS’ professional rabbinics program. Rabbi Krohn has been a member of the RCBC since joining Rinat in 2012.

In recent years, the executive leadership of the RCBC has begun to rotate duties in a somewhat proscribed way. Rabbi Krohn had been serving as vice president during Rabbi Goldberg’s term as president. Rabbi Kenny Schiowitz of Congregation Shaare Tefillah, the RCBC’s immediate past president, served as treasurer, and now Rabbi Goldberg will take the treasurer spot, more or less reserved for past presidents. The new RCBC vice president is Rabbi Andrew Markowitz, of Congregation Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn. Rabbi Ari Zahtz continues in his role as vice president for kashrut; Rabbi Yaakov Feit is the administrator for the RCBC conversion beit din.

In interviews, both Rabbi Krohn and Rabbi Goldberg shared their pride in their successful collaboration the past two years; both noting their commitment to serving the RCBC in their new capacities, and pledging to continue work on projects of mutual interest and also to support each other’s work and the work of the vaad.

While most community members come into contact with the RCBC on a daily basis through their patronage of the 60 RCBC-approved restaurants and catering establishments, the reach of the vaad goes beyond kashrut. The rabbis support and develop educational initiatives in partnership with other organizations, such as the Bergen County day schools, and the various Bergen County-based chesed organizations. A key part of the RCBC is the collaboration between the rabbanim, to address issues of mutual concern. In recent years, RCBC presidents have created committees or initiatives focused on areas such as yeshiva high school admissions and safety policies during the pandemic.

Rabbi Goldberg, in particular, became president of the RCBC during the thorny period of COVID social distancing. “When I started we were still in the midst of COVID, and the vaad was focused on lifting some of the synagogue-based restrictions in a thoughtful and deliberate fashion,” he said. “After the initial lockdown, we worked together and met with doctors to help guide us.

“Initially, a uniform response was critical. However, as the pandemic continued, a different form of collaboration was necessary. Each shul needed the latitude to act on their own. As a vaad, we focused on communication with each other.”

A taste of things to come is increased collaboration among community organizations. “About a month ago, there was a meeting that created an opportunity for the rabbanim of the RCBC to have face time with the chesed organizations within Bergen County,” said Rabbi Krohn. “There were 32 chesed organizations present at the meeting. They were there to address the question, ‘How do we continue to work together to support each other?’ Pooling our resources, we can all do so much more for our members.”

Just one result of this same chesed committee meeting is a Bergen County gemach listing in The Jewish Link that appears monthly. Other partnerships are expected to be announced in due time.

“We are blessed to live in a diverse community, Rabbi Krohn continued. “Every rav has his own approach, but we do find opportunities to speak together with one voice, like with our Living Connected initiative in the fall.”.

The Living Connected initiative was a collaboration between the RCBC rabbis, their shuls, and local day school and high school heads, who sought to make technology usage more thoughtful within community families. The campaign sought to promote a culture of deeper, more meaningful relationships in our largely device-driven world.

“My goal is for the vaad to continue to work as a cohesive unit, while also continuing to collaborate with our extraordinary group of community organizations,” Rabbi Krohn said. “This will allow our community members to see that there is a wide net of rabbinic and lay leadership here to support them.”

Rabbi Krohn added that working these past two years alongside Rabbi Goldberg has been very important to him. “I am blessed to share a close, personal relationship with Rabbi Goldberg. I am so impressed by his work in his own community, and by his leadership of the RCBC.

“Rabbi Goldberg has led our vaad for the past two years with sincerity and humility, and also a willingness to make tough decisions. The work he has done over the past two years on behalf of the community has been extraordinary, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Rabbi Goldberg, who in addition to serving as rabbi at Young Israel of Fort Lee, teaches at Stern College and Naale High School for Girls, shared his thoughts on the unique collaborative environment shared by the RCBC rabbis. “We are blessed to have such a cohesive group of rabbanim; it’s unusual for a group of rabbis to get along as well as we do. I don’t believe our community truly appreciates this because it has become so routine. But it truly is special.

“We respect one another deeply. This made serving as president easy. Even during COVID when issues were more delicate and sensitive; Even then, when rabbis didn’t see exactly eye to eye, there was always respect.

“The rabbanim in the RCBC have marvelous middot,” Rabbi Goldberg added. “With refined character traits we can work through almost any issue. I saw that firsthand.”

Rabbi Krohn agrees. “There’s a level of mutual respect amongst the rabbanim,” he said. “For me personally one unique perk of being a member of the RCBC is the opportunity to share relationships, personal and professional, with such a special group of rabbanim who have all dedicated their lives to serving the klal.”

By Elizabeth Kratz

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