John Franken takes up interim rabbi duties

Rabbi John Franken (Photo by Hannah Monicken)

After the departure of its 16-year rabbi, Michael Feshbach, Temple Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Chevy Chase, has welcomed Rabbi John Franken as its interim senior rabbi.

Franken comes to the Washington area from Bolton Street Synagogue in Baltimore, where he also started as interim rabbi five years ago before the temple made his job permanent.

Temple Shalom approached him about an interim position, he added, and it seemed like a good fit. “I wanted a new challenge at a bigger congregation,” Franken said.

Being an interim rabbi comes with an extra set of duties. An interim rabbi often uses his temporary tenure to look at organizational functions and make the synagogue “as healthy and dynamic as possible,” Franken said.

It’s a role Franken enjoys and has found he has a knack for. This is the third time he’s served as an interim rabbi, or, as he likes to call it, “making congregations from good to great.”

Temple Shalom appealed to Franken as one that is both large enough to have a lot of programming and offerings, but still small enough to feel intimate.

“It’s a wonderful community,” he said. “It’s a community similar to the one I loved in Baltimore. It’s people who are very positive, down to earth, are open to big ideas, are intellectually curious and are kind and warm.”

Franken started his career as a lawyer, graduating from the University of Maryland School of Law, and practiced in the area before entering rabbinic school.

“I concluded that being a rabbi would be a lot more interesting and a lot more fun and, truly, a lot more meaningful,” he said.

As a fifth-generation Reform Jew, Franken said he values the movement’s emphasis on social justice and inclusion, which he tries to bring to any synagogue he leads. Temple Shalom already has a long history with those Jewish values, he added, and he’s excited to be a part of its future.

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