Rabbi Barry Altman of Ormond Beach, FL, retired after 38 years at Temple Beth-El, but found that he wanted to stay active in congregational life after formal retirement.
In consultation with the Board of Mountain Synagogue, Rabbi Altman plans to provide services via Zoom from January to July on some Friday nights and/or Saturday mornings. This was after what was described as “the best attendance we have had” following a December Zoom service.
Rabbi Altman is no stranger to part-time work. For the past five years since his retirement from Temple Beth-El, he has traveled once a month to provide in-person services for a congregation in Meridian, MS. Prior to COVID, he would fly to Meridian for the weekend services, but now he and his wife Nancy prefer to drive.
The Mississippi congregation’s part-time work runs from the High Holy Days (usually in September) through May and he said, “This person from the north who before seminary never ventured west of the Hudson River, now loves BBQ, gumbo and I can even say, “y’all.”
Rabbi Altman grew up in the Borough of Bronx, New York City, graduated from both NYU and Columbia before attending Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, where he planned to pursue a PhD in Biblical Studies before “drifting into this rabbinic thing.” During his first week of school, he was asked to go to Oklahoma to be the rabbi for the High Holy day services; he described this as an “incredible event” and realized that one should do what “makes you happy.”
He also served as a substitute rabbi for a congregation in West Virginia in the coal mining counties during his time in Cincinnati. Five years later, upon graduation, he was called to be the associate rabbi for a large congregation in Miami, FL before eventually moving to Ormond Beach. But after 44 years in Florida, he says he has learned to love BBQ, gumbo and even can say, “y’all.”
He is a teacher and Rabbi Altman serves on the faculty of Stetson University. This spring, he will offer courses in Intro to Judaism, Holocaust Theology and the American Jewish Experience. He plans to teach virtually although he said that Stetson has done “an excellent job” in keeping students and faculty safe. There have been only a few positive cases, but he feels that he should opt for virtual teaching this spring. “I love it,” he said,