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Rabbi Simeon J. Malin

May 17, 2012 By:
Fredda Sacharow
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Rabbi Maslin (left) shares a table and a laugh with Yitzak Rabin in Jerusalem at a convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1995, scant month before Rabin's assassination.

Rabbi Simeon J. Maslin 

In 1980, when Simeon J. Maslin became senior rabbi at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, it was all about the suburbs.

“All suburban congregations were thriving. We had Confirmation classes of 70 or 80 kids — it was the culmination of the suburban migration. I got in on the tail end of this great movement of people out to the suburbs,” recalls Maslin.

More than three decades later, the migration has halted, and is even in the process of reversing itself, observes the 81-year-old former president of the Philadelphia Board of Rabbis.

“Today, people are moving either further out into the exurbs or, more importantly, back into the city. We’re seeing the start of congregations” in Center City “that would have been unthinkable 20 or 30 years ago,” he says.

Maslin is no stranger to the concept of relocation. He has held pulpits in New York, Curaçao and Chicago; served as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; and now, in retirement, conducts Torah study and Shabbat and High Holiday services at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Me., where he and his wife maintain a summer home.

He’s also volunteered his rabbinical services in such far-flung venues as South Africa, Australia and Singapore.

At Keneseth Israel, Maslin was both a stabilizing presence and an agent of change, steering the classically Reform congregation down a more traditional path.

“My predecessor, Dr. Bertram W. Korn, was beginning to move it more toward the center, but he died very suddenly. I continued to move it toward more traditionalism — wearing a kipah, wearing a tallit, using more Hebrew,” Maslin says. 

Today, in addition to lecturing and traveling, he’s writing up a storm, including “…and turn it again,” a compilation of essays on biblical verses. He and his wife, Judith Blumberg Maslin, are the grandparents of 10 — what he calls their own “beloved minyan.”

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