SUMMIT, NJ - After a year-long search process, Congregation Beth Hatikvah (CBH) in Summit is set to welcome its new rabbi August 1.   Rabbi Hannah Orden, who has served a congregation in New Hampshire for the past six years, will move to Summit with her husband, Don, a social worker.

Rabbi Orden is a former teacher, actor, and writer who came to the rabbinate as a second career.  She was ordained by Hebrew College in 2010.   Describing herself as a life-long seeker who grew up in a secular Jewish household, she said she has since been, “on a lifelong journey to reconnect with Judaism and discover what still matters in our traditions.  We’re all searching for meaning and connection.”

Congregation Beth Hatikvah hired Rabbi Orden after an intense process to reach consensus on the congregation’s priorities, and then recruit and select a candidate that fit the profile.   The most important criterion, according to the search committee’s co-chair, Elly Silberman of Summit, was the genuine warmth and people skills that would help the congregation cement its community.   “This is my passion,” Rabbi Orden affirmed, “To build communities where people can make connections with each other, with Torah, and with the divine spark in each of us and in the world.”  

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 “Hannah brings a gentleness of spirit and a real interest in each individual that she comes into contact with,” Silberman said.   Search Committee co-chair Amy Klein of Chatham pointed to Orden’s energy, sense of joy, and creativity.  “She’ll bring new ideas and vitality,” Klein said.

During the 18 months that CBH was without a full-time rabbi, the synagogue continued its religious, educational, and communal services with the help of an interim rabbi and stepped-up volunteer efforts of its membership.  Congregation president Dan Kiselik of Millburn described the transitional period as. “A remarkable unifying opportunity for us.   I’ve been inspired by the unprecedented level of across-the-board involvement and commitment of our members.”

Congregation Beth Hatikvah has planned “A Weekend of Firsts” to welcome Rabbi Orden, including a special Music Shabbat for her first Friday evening service August 1 at 7:30 p.m.   Andy Kaplan, the congregation’s music director and a resident of Summit, describes the monthly music Shabbats as a signature feature of the synagogue, the only Reconstructionist Jewish congregation in a 15 mile radius.   Guests are invited to join CBH members at the synagogue, located at 36 Chatham Road, to welcome the Ordens.