For rabbi, life's lessons a plus in new position
By EILEEN SCHULTE
Like many young people at the time, David Weizman spent the 1970s trying to find himself. He left school and worked as a canoe guide in Ontario. He hitchhiked around California, camped outside in the rain and got lost in the woods.
He found work fighting wildfires deep in the redwood forests.
He worked as a carpenter. Then as a chef. Then as a scuba instructor.
Then he decided he "wanted to do something a little more cerebral," he said.
"Somewhere along that path I remembered I wanted to be a rabbi and teach," Weizman said.
He was 13 when the thought first occurred to him.
Convinced this was his true calling, he went home to Ohio and earned his bachelor's degree in English literature from Cleveland State University. In 1994 he entered Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City. Six years later, he earned a master's degree in Hebrew letters and was ordained.
On Aug. 1, after a stint as associate rabbi at Shelter Rock Jewish Center in Roslyn, N.Y., he started his new job as the rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom, at 1325 S Belcher Road in Clearwater, his first position as a spiritual leader.
He moved to a house in Clearwater with his wife, Danielle Upbin, who also is a rabbi. She will work as a part time teacher at the Pinellas County Day School.
Weizman replaces Rabbi Emeritus Kenneth Bromberg, who served the conservative synagogue after Rabbi Gabriel Ben-Or "left by mutual agreement" in 2000, said Eileen Jacobs, president of Congregation Beth Shalom's board and a member of the 260-member synagogue since 1983.
Ben-Or now is the spiritual leader at Beth Tefillah/Jewish Community Center of West Pasco in Port Richey.
Weizman was chosen over 18 other rabbinic candidates because "the congregation stresses adult and youth education, and he seemed to have a big interest in both," Jacobs said.
"He has good academic grounding," she said. "And the people expressed a real comfort level with him."
Also, the 28 board members were impressed with Weizman's life experience, which Weizman said gave him an appreciation and respect for all types of lifestyles.
"Having those different occupations gave me the opportunity to meet different people," he said. "Some of the folks I met had never met a Jew before."
During his first year at Beth Shalom, Weizman plans to teach high school teens, build up trust with his congregants and focus on the needs of the young professionals who are joining the synagogue.
"I think the bottom line is building community," he said. "I want to make people feel they are in a place where they can grow intellectually and spiritually."
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