Profile of Sherman Stein, new rabbi at Temple B’Nai Darom

Originally published 7/21/12


OCALA — Sherman Stein had retired from being a rabbi a few years ago, but he didn’t stay that way for long.

“Rabbis are ordained for life,” Stein said. “It’s not a job, it’s a calling.”

At Temple B’Nai Darom in Ocala, Rabbi Harold Jaye had retired earlier this year after serving the temple for 25 years, giving the Reform Jewish congregation a few months’ notice to start looking for a new rabbi.

Within three or four months of forming a search committee, Stein came into the congregation’s lives.

“We weren’t looking very long,” said Jeff Helicher, vice president of the congregation and the head of the search committee. “He fell into our laps.

“From my personal point of view, we have a lot to look forward to. He has many years of experience.'”

Stein took about a week to make a decision.

“I’m looking forward to working with the congregation,” Stein said. “I’m hoping to bring in a broader-based understanding of the Torah.”

Stein, who lives in the Village of Duval, will serve on what he calls a “half-time basis” beginning in September, just in time for the upcoming high holy days. He will be seen every other Sabbath service.

The temple will hold a welcome party for Stein as well as an open house at 11 a.m. July 29. Both congregation members and nonmembers are welcome to attend to learn more about the temple and meet Stein.

“It will be a brunch,” Helicher said. “Just about everyone likes to eat.”

Joel Rosenblum, a Village of Hacienda South resident, had been attending the temple and had heard about Stein, who who was helping out at Congregation Beth Sholom in Leesburg giving his Bagels and Bible talk. Rosenblum then gave Stein a call.

“I thought, ‘Holy mackerel, this is a wonderful shot we have to get someone real quick,'” Rosenblum said. “God helps you. I’ll take it.'”

Rosenblum invited Stein over to the temple to meet some of the congregation.

“He was just right for us,” Helicher said. “We’re very fortunate he graduated from the best Reform rabbi seminary there is.

“I like that he’s very approachable, very warm. He’s a great listener. When people have issues, he’s very patient and attentive to their needs.'”

“It’s a beautiful facility,” Stein said.

The beginning of the journey

Stein’s journey as a rabbi began in 1950 while he was attending Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. There he was the chaplain of his fraternity, where he also served on a committee that featured the president of the college and other faculty members.

Unbeknownst to Stein, the faculty thought that Stein would be a good fit to attend Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati and become a Reform rabbi.

In all, Stein spent seven years training to become a rabbi and complete his college education.

“I knew it would take a long time,” Stein said. “You learn about 4,000-plus years of religious (information).'”

Stein had been a rabbi for various temples in Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Illinois and Texas.

His longest stint was 20 years at Temple Sinai in Lake Charles, La. One of his biggest accomplishments during his time there was establishing Abraham’s Tent, a project for providing meals to the poor in the community.

At age 67, Stein retired in 2009 while in Sherman, Texas.

“It was time to take it a little easier,” Stein said.

After moving to The Villages that same year, Stein wanted to help out the local synagogues in any way.

For the past two years, he’s been giving the Bagels and Bible talks about the Torah portion, or Old Testament, of the Bible at Congregation Beth Sholom in Leesburg.

Now he’s joined Temple B’Nai Darom several miles up the road between Belleview and Ocala.

“I’m pleased that I’m able to bring my (experiences) in another setting and (be a part of) such a cordial atmosphere,” Stein said.