Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin Takes on Role as President of Baltimore Board of Rabbis

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin
Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin (Courtesy of Nina Beth Cardin)

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin became the new president of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis last month. The board’s membership consists of 60 interdenominational rabbis from the Baltimore area.

Speaking to the Baltimore Jewish Times, Cardin expressed her desire to continue the work of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis, to create a historical archive of the work the board and its members have done since its inception and to alleviate some of the pressure under which rabbis are working at the moment.

“The officers who took us through COVID, and through Oct. 7, have carried us through difficult times, and it has been particularly difficult for congregational and college campus rabbis. I am glad that I am in a position to say yes, and to assume leadership of the board,” Cardin said.

“Our great work right now is to hold collegiality among rabbis and to support our rabbis. This is a difficult time in American society — it is a difficult time to be a Jew, and it is a difficult time to manage global issues, as well as personal issues which rabbis address daily,” Cardin added.

Cardin, a resident of Pikesville, was one of the first women rabbis to be ordained in the Conservative Jewish movement. She has held different roles in the Jewish world, including founding the Jewish Women’s Resource Center in New York and serving as the director of Jewish life at the JCC of Greater Baltimore. She has also been active in environmental work, as she founded and directed the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network and served as chair of the Chesapeake Covenant Community.

She takes over the president role from Rabbi John Franken, who has been at the helm of the board for seven years. During his tenure, the BBR completed its transition to a fully volunteer-led organization, strengthened its Introduction to Judaism program and provided support during the pandemic, among other achievements. Franken noted that he also wanted to recognize Rabbi Debi Wechsler of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, who has served as treasurer for the last few years.

“Rabbi Cardin is a lovely person, a respected colleague and a devoted servant of the Baltimore Jewish community,” Franken said. “I have every confidence in her as a worthy successor and steward of the BBR.”

Cardin highlighted that rabbinical work is often a tough, lonely job, and the Baltimore Board of Rabbis has been a place to provide camaraderie and support for rabbis.

The Board of Rabbis changed its structure a few years ago. A 2017 Baltimore Jewish Times article titled, “Baltimore Board of Rabbis: Studying, Teaching, Communing,” described the transition of the board from one supported by The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore to an all-volunteer organization with no outside financial support.

At the time, the leaders of the board requested the change, citing a desire to be more of an independent body that could speak “as the moral leadership of Baltimore.”

The written historical record of the work of the board is scant, at least online, something that Cardin anticipates addressing during her term.

In addition to providing support to the approximately 60 rabbis who make up the organization, Cardin looks forward to creating an archival history of contributions by former board members with the intent to memorialize these for future generations.

“We hope to capture the memories of the rabbis who are still here and to preserve those memories,” Cardin said. “Baltimore is a storied Jewish community, and we should add it.”

Previous presidents include Rabbi Rex Perlmeter, former senior rabbi of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation; Rabbi Steven Schwartz of Beth El Congregation; and Rabbi Amy Scheinerman, a teacher, writer, and hospice chaplain; among many other well-known rabbinical leaders.

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