New director combines love of Judaism, work Synagogue administrator gathers prayers, readings for high holy days in Sept.

August 20, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

As the Jewish High Holy Days approach, Jonathan E. Kollin is working on a 42-page supplement for Columbia Jewish Congregation's annual prayer book.

This project is just one of his many duties as the new executive director for the 26-year-old congregation, Howard County's oldest Jewish congregation.

His job as administrator of the synagogue -- which meets in the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center -- combines his love for Judaism and his professional life. Jewish life "revolves around the synagogue," said Kollin, 46. "It always has."

These days, he is busy gathering prayers and readings for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, next month.

Kollin's recent appointment follows a major change at the 400-family-congregation this summer. For more than 25 years, the congregation was not affiliated with any of the four branches of Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist.

In May, however, members voted to join the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. The Reconstructionist branch of Judaism is a liberal movement that treats Judaism as an evolving religious civilization and emphasizes Jewish tradition, language, art and history.

The congregation and its 25-year-old Howard County Jewish Community School now will have access to the Pennsylvania-based federation's internationally known scholars and lecturers and its books, supplies and other resources.

Next June, the congregation's longtime rabbi, Martin Siegel, plans to retire.

"Rabbi Siegel has been at the helm for 26 years ," Kollin said. "When he leaves, we hope to continue the structure he has put together."

Kollin applied for the executive director's position last month. He was interviewed over the July 4 weekend and, several days later, he was chosen unanimously from a pool of 30 candidates to lead the congregation.

He succeeds Brad Fields, who left in mid-June to work for the Maryland Food Committee, congregation officials said.

Kollin said he plans to provide the infrastructure for the congregation -- largely administrative tasks, such as running the office and membership drives.

He also plans to increase publicity for the congregation, which is one of six Jewish congregations in the county that draws from Howard's estimated 10,000 Jewish residents.

"We're all here for one purpose -- to serve Jews," Kollin said, adding that he'd like his efforts to strengthen the entire Jewish community here. "All I can do is make sure they have enough tools in place to keep providing Judaism."

Kollin comes to the Columbia congregation with a 20-year background as a synagogue administrator. He began his career at Temple Emanu-El in his native New York City in 1976. He has also worked in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and was executive director of Beth Israel Congregation in Randallstown, which subsequently relocated to Owings Mills.

He majored in history and minored in Judaic studies at Leahman College in New York City, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1973.

Most recently, Kollin was working in Florida. He heard about the Columbia job when his mother, sister and friends sent him newspaper clippings announcing the opening.

"We chose Jonathan because he was experienced, energetic and enthusiastic," said Joel Barry Brown, the congregation's vice president. "He's very experienced, having worked at a number of synagogues."

Rabbi Siegel said: "CJC is not only a congregation. It really is a cooperative so a cooperative has to have a manager."

Siegel said Kollin will help a new rabbi ease into the position. The Reconstructionist Federation is helping the congregation in its search for a rabbi.

Meanwhile, Kollin still is getting adjusted.

On Friday, the silver-haired administrator sat at his wooden desk and took phone calls from would-be members, current members asking about dues and other callers.

Unlike his previous assignments, Kollin doesn't have to worry about building maintenance and other such duties, because the various congregations in the interfaith center share in taking care of the facility.

"Here, I can concentrate on people," said Kollin, who lives with his wife, Shirley, in Pikesville. They have two sons, Michael, 16, and Joshua, 22.

Pub Date: 8/20/96

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