Eyal Bor wears many hats.
He is not only an internationally recognized clarinetist who once managed his own clarinet and saxophone studio, but also a professor of modern Hebrew at Towson University’s Department of Language, Literatures and Cultures, as well as the director of Beth El Congregation Schools and director of Beth El’s Rabbi Mark G. Loeb Center for Life Long Learning. He has worked at the congregation for 32 years. He also plays a key role in coordinating congregation trips to his and his wife’s homeland of Israel.
Bor is 66, and while he is slowly starting to wind down his work, he continues to focus on educating people and expanding Beth El’s base of congregants.
Growing up in Ramat Gan in Israel, Bor was raised in a fairly traditional household and was a member of his hometown synagogue’s choir. It was there that he developed his love of music. This passion would lead him to pursue music professionally and even serve in the Israel Defense Forces as a four-year musician.
For him, though, music is in his blood.
“I’m from a family of professional musicians,” Bor said. “I grew up playing the violin and clarinet, and it took me very far. I loved playing, and it was always a part of my daily life.”
At one point, Bor was recognized as one of the 10 best musicians in Israel, which allowed him to postpone his army service to take professional music classes. After touring the United States, Canada and Mexico, he earned a graduate school scholarship at the University of Southern California for his performance. His life in the U.S. began when he moved to Los Angeles to attend school and earn a bachelor’s degree in music.
His career in education, though, was entirely unexpected.
“You know what happens to Israelis who come to America. Some of them become taxi drivers or carpet cleaners or Hebrew school teachers,” he said. “I applied for a teaching job at a nearby temple, and was also a counselor who taught children for their bar mitzvahs. I ended up pursuing a master’s degree in Jewish studies, and I fell in love with Jewish literature, which felt like it had been missing in my life up to that point.”
Bor worked on earning his Ph.D. along with his wife, Hana, who is also a professor at Towson. Their three daughters are all medical doctors, and their son has made aliyah to Israel.
Bor started working at Beth El in 1990, and he is responsible for many of its staple educational programs. He created its infant and toddler program in 2005, and he worked with the Jemicy School to provide Hebrew School in Your Neighborhood programming to young congregants who may be too far away to regularly attend Beth El’s Berman-Lipavsky Religious School.
Because of the duration of his work at Beth El, Bor has seen many former students grow over the years.
“I’ve seen parents who were once my students bring their own children [to Hebrew school],” he said. “There aren’t many positions where you get to work with three generations of the same families.”
Most important to him, though, is his work at the Loeb Center. The eponymous Loeb was Bor’s mentor, so he takes pride in the work that he has done there.
“I took the [Adult Education] Department and changed the flavor of it from recreational programs to learning to movies to concerts … you name it. Everyone can find a place that fits their interests,” he said.
Bor is also partly responsible for the Israel trips that Beth El congregants can embark on each year. He was assigned to the program by Loeb when he first started working at the congregation, and he has been taking part in it ever since.
He noted that part of his vision for that aspect of his work is to introduce American Jews to Israel and give them hands-on experiences with its culture.
“I see a big gap between American Jews and Israelis,” Bor said. “When I bring a group of Americans to Israel, they become much more connected with [Beth El] and what is happening in Israel. Israel is a good venue for American Jews to become even more connected to Judaism.”
Bor plans to slowly ease up on his work as he gets older, but there are still many things he wants to do. He plans to write a book and said he would like to return to teaching music again.
“I hope that the Jewish community in America will stay interested in educating their children,” he said.