Robert Kirzner, a Toronto, Canada, native, always knew he would be a Rabbi.
It wasn’t that he grew up in a particularly orthodox family, it was just something that was “always there.” He was the oldest of four children, and the only one who took the rabbinical path.
Kirzner took what he considers a traditional approach to becoming a rabbi – he did his undergraduate work at the University of Toronto, then attended the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he received a Masters of Arts in Hebrew Letters, along with his ordination.
His first year of studies, however, was completed in Israel between 1970-71, something that made a lasting impact on him.
"Israel has a tremendous sense of living history," he recalled. "I'm somewhat of a historian, and I had always identified very strongly with Jewish history."
He formed relationships with families in Israel that remain to this day.
Rabbi Kirzner has served in congregations both large and small, including his home congregation. Between 2001-2008, he served as a civilian chaplain with the U.S. Army, during which time he served in Germany and Walter Reed Hospital. It was during that time that he met his wife and moved to Austin, Texas, where he taught as a middle school teacher.
He first came to Temple Beth David – also known as the Gwinnett Temple – as a visiting Rabbi. He began in January and came once a month after that. The move from Austin, Texas, to Sandy Springs came about because of a job change for his wife, Bernice. She is currently the Associate Head of School of the Epstein School of Atlanta.
Between the two of them, they have seven children and five grandchildren, who live all over the place.
The transition to the Atlanta area has been “very easy,” according to Kirzner.
“It’s a nice area, friendly, and in many ways similar to Austin,” he said.
During a welcoming ceremony at the Temple, city officials, including Rep. Brett Harrell, Melvin Everson, and Mayor Kelly Kautz, along with several city council members came to meet the Rabbi and welcome him to our community.
Temple Beth David is the oldest reformed Jewish congregation in Gwinnett. According to Kirzner, the members are very passionate about the area.
“They’re very committed to the area, both socially and politically,” he said. “We feel very much a part of the community and want to continue that.”
He feels that he's a good fit for the congregation, which he considers informal, like himself.
“I bring a compassion and leadership to this community that the Temple has needed,” he said, “and can offer that to the community as well.”
He hopes to increase the programs the Temple offers and to make a positive difference in the Snellville community. He will also blog for Patch, starting this afternoon.
This first appeared on Snellville Patch.
For further reading:
- Rosh Hashanah 2012 in Snellville
- Observe Yom Kippur in Snellville
- Viewfinder: Festival of Purim