After finishing his studies at Asychel Avrahm Rabbinic Seminary in New York City, Rabbi Steven A. Saks started looking for openings at synagogues he thought he'd be interested in. When he came across Adath Zion Congregation — a traditional synagogue in Northeast Philadelphia — it seemed to be just what he was searching for.
"The shul was basically a good fit," said Saks, the kind he, his wife and 3-month-old daughter were looking for.
Saks grew up in Bellmore, N.Y., attended the State University of New York at Oswego, where he earned a degree in political science, then acquired his master's degree in human-resource development from Maryland's Towson University. After working as a paralegal at a Long Island law firm and a substitute teacher in a New York City public school, he decided to enter rabbinical school.
One of the most exciting aspects of Adath Zion for Saks is the drive of the congregation.
"They want to start building and picking up more members," said Saks. "There's an eagerness and hunger for people to learn, and have the shul start growing again."
The 31-year-old rabbi conducted Shabbat services the week before Rosh Hashanah, along with the Rosh Hashanah service — which has made his last few weeks busy, considering that he and his family just finished moving from Passaic, N.J.
"People like the idea of having a young, energetic rabbi," he said.
One of his major goals is to reach out to the entire synagogue community. "I want to be able to work with different types of Jews," acknowledged Saks. "Not everyone has to be from the same background."
He is also eager to set up adult-education programs, and his addition of several English readings in the services was appreciated by the congregation, he said, since they all have varying levels of proficiency in Hebrew.
The rabbi's discovery of a few nice kosher restaurants in the Northeast has also eased his transition, and he's looking forward to getting to know his new congregation.
Of the people he's met already, he noted that the place has a "very friendly, warm feel, where all types of Jews seem to get along with each other very well."