Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Rabbi Neely signs long-term contract


January 18, 2019

Rabbi Joshua Neely with wife Penelope and children Hannah and Nathaniel.

Temple Israel recently signed a 9.5-year contract extension with Rabbi Joshua Neely. This is the synagogue's third contract with Rabbi Neely, who has been the spiritual leader of this progressive Conservative congregation since 2010. Temple Israel President Adrian Share explained "the length of the contract is the strongest testament to our commitment to each other and the long-term stability this provides to our congregation and prospective members."

Congregants enjoy engaging with Rabbi Neely, as well as his family-wife Penelope, children Hannah and Nathaniel, and mother Charlene-at Shabbat services, holidays, the MAGAL Religious School, and various educational and social events. Penelope has led a popular monthly Tot Shabbat program on Saturday mornings as well as L'dor v'dor events on Sundays after religious school. She is also the congregation's Facebook page manager, Junior Congregation coordinator, proofreader, frequent Shabbat greeter, and provider of snacks. Hannah has served as a religious school madricha (teacher's aide), regular Shabbat service leader, assistant for Tot Shabbat and L'dor v'dor, and is a TIUSY board member. Nathaniel is a MAGAL student and helps set up for Shabbat and holidays. Charlene is an active Sisterhood member and synagogue office volunteer and will be leading an adult education program in the spring.

"Many outside Judaism are surprised to learn that rabbis and congregations get to choose each other; there is no central organization which forces us together," explained Rabbi Neely. "This means synagogues and rabbis have to be the right fit for each other. From my first interview, I knew Temple Israel would be a great community to be a part of, and I look forward to being part of its long history for many years to come."

Rabbi Neely was born and raised in San Diego, California, and was ordained in 2006 after studying at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles. He then served as the second rabbi at Beth Israel in Baltimore for four years before calling Temple Israel home in 2010.

"We are proud to look up to Rabbi Neely as our spiritual leader," added Share. "He captivates us with his weekly sermons that draw on our deep history and tradition, and he ties these so well to today's world events. His empathy for others, not only in our community but across the world in times of need, keeps us grounded. He is a great teacher for our youth and was integral in the formation of our collaborative school (with reform synagogue Temple Shir Shalom), the Meitin Alliance for Growth and Learning (MAGAL). Finally, he is central to our mission of inclusiveness and welcoming to all Jews and those interested in converting."

In addition to being the spiritual and pastoral leader of the congregation, Rabbi Neely also co-directs the MAGAL Religious School and teaches "Judaism in a Nutshell," Lunch & Learns, Mishna, conversion classes, and all the b'nai mitzvah students. Despite his busy schedule, he always makes time to talk personally with congregants and offer a friendly smile. That is just one of the reasons he fits in so naturally with Temple Israel's warm and welcoming congregational family.

"When I dreamed of becoming a rabbi, I knew I wanted to be in a welcoming family of all ages and with all types of people who had come together through the power of our faith and heritage. Temple Israel has shown me that dreams can come true," said Rabbi Neely.

Temple Israel is a Progressive Conservative Temple located in Winter Springs and has been serving Central Florida since 1954. For more information, visit tiflorida.org.


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