University News

After five years, Rabbi Rackover to leave Brown and Hillel

Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Rabbi Mordechai Rackover, associate University chaplain for the Jewish community, will be leaving the University at the end of the academic year.

The announcement was made in an internal Hillel community email Friday and confirmed by Rackover in a tweet Monday night.

Rackover, who started at the University in 2008, said his decision to leave was driven by his family. “As a family, we’re trying to find the right community and the right schools for our kids,” he said. “It’s the fifth year, so it’s kind of a nice bookend.” 

Marshall Einhorn, executive director of Hillel, said the search for a new rabbi will begin soon and extend through most of the spring semester. Because the position holds responsibilities with both the University and Hillel, the search committees will include a range of contributors. Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson, University chaplain, said the dual nature of the position makes the search process more complex.

“Mordechai actually holds two jobs – he gets two paychecks, he has two sets of accountabilities,” Cooper Nelson said. “There’s a lot of connections that have to be worked out.”

Though the structures of potential search committees have not been determined, both Einhorn and Cooper Nelson said it is important to involve undergraduate students in the hiring process.

“We view it as a community effort to find the right fit for our next rabbi and certainly that starts with the students,” Einhorn said. He added that outside of interviews and committees, the candidates’ visits to campus will include “significant interaction with students in different settings.”

Since his hiring, Rackover has initiated a number of programs in the Hillel community including student-run high holiday ceremonies and a weekly community study of Jewish texts. Rackover also encouraged more students to participate in Birthright trips to Israel. 

Rackover said his imminent departure will not affect his work, adding that he recently received a grant to purchase Kindle readers as part of a literacy program he will be working on through the spring semester. 

Rackover has been a tremendous teacher for the Jewish community, Einhorn said. Lex Rofes, student president of Hillel, said students will remember Rackover’s spiritual knowledge and openness.

 “He provides a lot to students who learn with him. He has been a great asset to our Hillel and has worked with students a great deal on a number of different projects,” Rofes said.

Cooper Nelson stressed Rackover’s enthusiasm for teaching about Judaism. “He loves learning about, loves talking about it,” she said. “That was a very wonderful synergy for Brown because Brown tends to draw people that love learning.”

Students have expressed some surprise and sadness since the announcement because of the connections they have established with Rackover, Einhorn said. 

Though Rackover said he never worked on a campus before, he said he enjoyed his time at the University because of the students he has gotten to know. 

“In the process of my interview and learning about the institution I came to understand that students were very bright and very self-motivated,” Rackover said. “I’ve found great student interactions and nice experiences with people learning.”

Rofes said Rackover will be missed. “We’re sad to see him go,” he said. “But at the same time, we are optimistic we can find someone who can continue all the great work that he’s done.”

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