Youth and exuberance of rabbis credited for vibrant community at Temple Emanu-El

SARASOTA -- A sense of community and infectious vitality has been drawing more young people to Temple Emanu-El, and several members give much of the credit to the young rabbi, and his wife, they hired about six years ago.

When Rabbi Brenner Glickman and his wife, Elaine, arrived at Temple Emanu-El with their three children, the congregation was mostly older people whose children were grown.

Over time the rabbi said he has seen changes in the ages of the members of those attending temple services and programs.

Several temple members said this was no accident.

"Before Rabbi Glickman theaverage age was around 70," said Joe Kopper, who has been amember of Temple Emanu-El for about eight years. "He was able to bring in younger couples with families."

Glickman was able to do this by reaching out to young Jewish families of Manatee and Sarasota counties, said Kopper, who lives in Lakewood Ranch.

"For example, Rabbi Glickman held an evening service in the

pavilion in Summerfield Community Park and brought in pizza, blew up balloons and had face painting for the children," he said.

Kopper said these are the kinds of activities that attracted young Jewish families.

Glickman, 45, said he was hired because he was young and had a family.

Elaine Glickman, 42, who also is an ordained rabbi, but is not paid by the temple, except when she teaches at Hebrew school, said it was important when they arrived to do outreach work with the young unaffiliated Jewish families.

They did this with various events that included children, such as during the Sabbath service on Fridays at least once a month.

Brenner Glickman said they were starting a new outreach effort in University Park, a Manatee County neighborhood off Honore Avenue.

"So many of our members are coming from University Park that we want to do some programs in their community where they can invite their friends to come," he said.

The rabbi said there already is a significant number of members from Manatee County, many from Lakewood Ranch, The Cascades and Grey Hawk Landings.

"People are very happy here," he said. "When they join they don't want to leave."

Six years ago there were around 230 households who were members of Temple Emanu-El, and now there are 420, the rabbi said.

"We also have the largest religious school in the area," Brenner Glickman said.

Bragging on her husband of 15 years, Elaine Glickman said her husband's sermons was another reason the congregation is growing.

"Brenner is really extra-ordinary in the pulpit," she said. "His sermons are very moving. They're excellent."

Northwest Bradenton resident Lori Dorman, a 15-year member of Temple Emanu-El, said it was the energy and excitement the Glickmans brought that helped revitalize the 56-year-old Reform Judaism congregation.

"The vibe is totally different since they've been here," Dorman said. "(Rabbi Glickman) is such a dynamic person and he's really fun.

"It was a giant breath of fresh air," she said.

Jason Lipton, who withhis wife, Faith, and theirchildren, have been members of Temple Emanu-El for around eight years, said he remembers when he first started attending services at the synagogue there were only a handful of young families.

"There were so few that we stood out," Lipton said. "And they always wanted us to volunteer."

After the Glickmans arrived there was a "immediate jolt of energy to the temple," he said.

Faith Lipton said the Glickmans work together to create community at the temple.

"With Elaine being arabbi she knows how tohelp teach," she said. "I feel so lucky to go temple where the rabbi is so focus on children."

She said this was important because she wanted her children to be around other Jewish children and that the Temple provides many activities to accommodate that need.

The Glickmans have three children, Mo, 12; Leo, 10; and Eden, 8, and moved to Florida from Houston, where Brenner Glickman was the rabbi at the temple Elaine Brenner attended while growing up.

Brenner Glickman was raised in Portland, Maine, where his brother was a rabbi. His desire to serve people and the influence of his brother led him to want to become rabbi.

Wanting to have a deeper understanding of the sacred texts was the inspiration for Elaine Glickman.

Her great-grandfather and many generations be-fore him were rabbis, and she was carrying on that legacy.

The couple met 18 years ago when they started at Hebrew Union College, a rabbinical school in Cincinnati.

They went to Jerusalemfor their first year of studyand met the first even-ing Brenner Glickman arrived.

"We became friends and then fell in love," he said.

This summer they traveled with their children to Jerusalem for the first time since they met and rekindled the excitement they felt when they were rabbinical students.

"The city is so holy and ancient," Brenner Glickman said, "and vibrant and alive."