Less than a month ago, Rabbi Yechiel Shaffer uprooted his life in Manhattan to become the lead clergyman of Pikesville Jewish Congregation, a shul he describes as fast-growing and spirited.
“The sky’s the limit in terms of creating something meaningful here,” Shaffer said. “It’s primarily led by a new generation that’s looking for meaning.”
The London native, who moved to the United States at the age of 14, assumed the position after his predecessor, Rabbi Daniel Lerner, left to teach at Yeshiva University. Lerner led the family-oriented congregation for two years, beginning in September 2014.
The roughly 4-year-old synagogue has seen immense growth, from a humble beginning, where families would meet in basements to daven, to an established synagogue with about 100 families on Carla Road.
Shaffer, 32, is already implementing activities to help members engage in communal learning and strengthen their connection to Judaism.
This summer, congregants are reading “Turbulent Souls” by Stephen Dubner, author of “Freakonomics,” and will discuss what they learned in the weeks leading up to the High Holidays. In addition, he is planning to live stream learning programs for those unable to attend in person.
“There’s an enthusiasm and excitement for trying to figure out how to be a successful professional and how to have a meaningful spiritual life — those two things are not seen as a conflict by many of the congregants within PJC,” Shaffer said. “And we can create something really great with that.”