Rabbi Scott Hoffman grew up in Silver Spring, but it’s been decades since he’s lived in the area. Since becoming a rabbi, he spent most of his time in New York. But when the opportunity came to join Congregation B’nai Shalom of Olney as interim rabbi, he took it.
The Conservative congregation hired Hoffman, 55, after Rabbi Dina Rosenberg stepped down in May. Hoffman served for a year as interim rabbi at Congregation Beth El of Bucks County, in Pennsylvania. He led Temple Israel of South Merrick, in New York, for 11 years.
Although his tenure will be only about a year, Hoffman said he wants to leave B’nai Shalom of Olney a better place it was when he arrived. He doesn’t want to be remembered as simply a “placeholder” rabbi, he said.
“The central issue I’d like to address is [creating] a greater sense of trust and mutual respect between the lay leadership and the clergy and staff, and to set up those around me who are not here on an interim basis,” he said.
Some synagogues hire an interim rabbi when a longtime rabbi leaves and the congregation wants to reassess the kind of rabbi they want. Others seek an interim rabbi when they lack sufficient time to hire a long-term rabbi.
Hoffman said many of those who are working at the synagogue started fairly recently, so he wants to ensure they will be established members of the community when his contract ends.
Although most of Hoffman’s experience has been as a contractual rabbi, he said he sees the interim position as a way of taking on new and interesting challenges.
“There’s a time when you get to a certain point in your career when your choices become very limited, regardless of your qualifications, and I believe I have reached that point,” he said, “But I reached a point where, given the choice, I will always choose an active and engaging position, which is nevertheless interim over a permanent position, which I just don’t find engaging and exciting.”
The new position has another bonus: Hoffman is able to live near his father, who recently moved into Leisure World. While Hoffman had to leave behind his wife, Phyllis, in New York, they’re still able to visit each other and their three adult sons still visit from time to time.
And even in between leading the synagogue, caring for his parents and exploring how much his hometown has changed over the years, he’s still making time for his favorite hobby: running. He can often be spotted exercising on the side of Georgia Avenue.
“I’ve been an avid runner since I was just a 12 year old in middle school. I compete on a very limited basis. I would sometimes run races with congregants [at my old synagogue] but it’s hard to establish your own competitions.”