Deerfield-born rabbi returns home to lead a new congregation

Rabbi Jeremy Fine returns to his roots

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When Rabbi Jeremy Fine was growing up in Deerfield, his dream was to become a rabbi and serve the Chicago Jewish community.

Now, his dream is coming true.

After nine years as the senior rabbi at the Temple of Aaron in St. Paul, MN, Fine will return to the Chicago area in July to serve as the rabbi of Congregation B'nai Tikvah in Deerfield.

"I'm very proud of Chicago Jewry and the Judaism it presented to me, and I always wanted to be a part of giving back to the next generations," said Fine. Growing up, he attended Solomon Schechter day school, Camp Ramah, Camp Chi, and Ida Crown Jewish Academy, and participated in the JCC Maccabi Games. "All of these experiences allowed me to see a depth and breadth of Jewish life. It was vast and connected and meaningful."

B'nai Tikvah is not the synagogue Fine grew up attending -- which is an opportunity to "come home, but serve a new community," Fine said. It's also a chance for him to "be seen as a rabbi, not a kid" after years of synagogue involvement.

Fine sees being a pulpit rabbi as "one of the last true renaissance jobs" where a single day can include a baby naming, mourning the loss of a congregant, raising funds, and hosting an event. This diversity of experience inspired Fine to change his focus from becoming a head of school at a Jewish institution to serving as a pulpit rabbi.

"I get to [share experiences] from birth to death, and I can have generations of a family in my synagogue. Working with people throughout their entire life excites me," said Fine, who is also eager to reconnect with rabbinical mentors like Rabbi Michael Siegel at Anshe Emet Synagogue and Senior Rabbi Michael Schwab at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.

As the pandemic wanes, he hopes to be able to connect with his old mentors and his new congregation in person.

His first challenge will be figuring out what synagogue life will look like after over a year of staying apart. In the past, he has used innovative programming to involve young families in securing a Jewish future and draw in new congregants, strategies he hopes to continue along with his wife Jessica and two daughters.

"It's yet to be seen exactly how the pandemic will restrict not only my ability but also the community's ability to learn about each other and collaborate together," he said, "but I'm very hopeful that because people are getting vaccines, the science is winning, and I'll be able to be with people sooner rather than later."

In his last role, Fine spent a great deal of time "revitalizing a wonderful and historic Conservative synagogue," and he has similar ambitious goals for B'nai Tikvah. He focused on the "balance beam" of navigating a Conservative synagogue's place between tradition and change and helping both established synagogue members and newcomers to feel welcome.

Fine, who previously served a year as the rabbi of Beth El Synagogue Center in New Rochelle, NY, also studied in Israel and earned his rabbinical degree and a master's in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois, where he was Hillel president for three years and a member of a Jewish fraternity.

"I hope to reinvigorate synagogue life as we know it through presentation, programming, social networking, and collaboration," he said. "I'm really excited that there's an opportunity to do that in Deerfield and be part of the larger Jewish network of Chicago."

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