Rabbi Hillel Norry Assumes Snellville Job
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Rabbi Hillel Norry Assumes Snellville Job

The self-described “teacher, rav, artist, warrior and sage” says that he can’t wait to assume the position at Temple Beth David.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Rabbi Norry is known for his eclectic spiritual background, versatility and for being a bridge-builder.
Rabbi Norry is known for his eclectic spiritual background, versatility and for being a bridge-builder.

Since the transition of Rabbi Jesse Charyn to a new role in Miami, Snellville’s Reform Temple Beth David has found a match in local Conservative Rabbi Hillel Norry, who had recently served in two interim positions and was open to trying another.

“There was nothing [available] regionally, and I was just settling into the idea of not having a pulpit again,” Norry recalled. “Then I saw an ad from a national, non-denominational rabbinic job site and one thing led to another. Within a month, I had applied, interviewed and accepted the offer. Note there are new emerging ways that are outside of the traditional denominational pipelines.”

After interviewing with the search committee and meeting with the full board, “We both felt like it was meant to be, and [that it was] a very good fit for both of us,” Norry reported. His commitment is currently for two years, including two Shabbatot a month, High Holy Days, educational offerings for both kids and adults and lifecycle events.

Norry expects to have a formal introduction to the congregation in late fall. Asked about the scope of his duties he replied, “I am their rabbi. The responsibilities for shabbat are parttime, but I’m their full-on rabbi.”

Temple Beth David’s membership numbers approximately 60 families.

The rabbi incorporates a number of spiritual traditions: ancient practices, contemporary mediation, rituals and a talent for music, including guitar and harmonica. He also has a black belt in Taekwondo, practices marksmanship and is a vegetarian chef.

After graduating from the Jewish Theological Seminary, he served as a pulpit rabbi at Conservative congregation Shaare Zedek on the Upper West Side in New York City and locally as senior rabbi at Shearith Israel, “an egalitarian, Conservative synagogue located in Intown Atlanta,” according to its website.

When asked about his assuming a position at a Reform congregation as a Conservative rabbi, Norry says, “I have considered myself a more universal rabbi for many years and haven’t been a member of any rabbinical organization since 2015. I was trained at a Conservative seminary and served Conservative shuls, etc. But I’m not only a Conservative rabbi. I can be a guide, teacher and rabbi for Jews of any stripe and for people of other faiths as well. What kind of rabbi am I? I’m the kind of rabbi that [it] takes more than five seconds to describe. I’m not limited by denomination or dogma. I’m a teacher, a rav, an artist, a warrior and a sage. I can’t wait to get started.”

Despite their differences, Norry believes that the different streams of Judaism flow from a common source.

Rabbi Hillel Norry is a lifelong musician, playing guitar and harmonica. Temple Beth David in Snellville, known as “singing congregation,” made for a good match.

“I think we will get to know each other’s preferences pretty quickly, and while I’m excited to bring my kind of Torah to them, I’m not looking to come and change it all up,” he said of the Snellville shul. “They have a great community and I want to help them make it better. There will likely be some differences to be navigated, but I think they will be few and far between.”

In particular, the rabbi admires Temple Beth David’s strength in having a small, growing community — composed of some 60 families — in which everyone matters.

“When you are there, people notice. And when you are not, they notice, too,” he said. “They have a strong identity and are open and receptive to new Jewish teaching and guidance. And they are a singing congregation, which loves and appreciates music in worship. That is part of what makes us a good match.”

Citing a lack of financial support, the congregation currently employs no professional staff and relies on lay cantorial soloist for Shabbat services. But Norry is nothing if not optimistic about his new pulpit.

“We have a full-size sanctuary, and a small but adequate property in a growing area,” he said. “Come check us out. We have room for you!”

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