The future is now at UOS: Houston Modern Orthodox shul has new rabbi, new president and new building in the works – Jewish Herald-Voice

Posted By on March 29, 2022

These are exciting days at United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston. On Feb. 27, the UOS board officially ratified a three-year contract for Rabbi Yitzchak (Yitzy) Sprung to serve as synagogue rabbi of the largest Modern Orthodox synagogue about 300 families in the Southwest.

The board also named Doreen Lerner to serve as UOS president. And, with construction of the synagogues new building set to get underway, the future is now. The new building will house a sanctuary, overflow room, beit midrash and daily minyan chapel.

Rabbi Sprung became UOS interim rabbi in August 2021, after longtime Rabbi Barry Gelman left to become the director of Jewish Living and Learning at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center. Rabbi Sprung, his wife Tiferet and his three children moved here from Skokie, Ill., where he was assistant rabbi at Congregation Or Torah.

When I first came here, I knew the shul was a warm community, Rabbi Sprung told the JHV. Its turned out to be a hundred times warmer than I expected. The vibrancy and growth at the shul have been off the charts. This community has exceeded all my expectations.

I feel happy with the process weve put in place here. More people are coming to the events and classes we hold. More people are volunteering to serve on committees. I feel Im in a wonderful partnership with amazing people. Were very blessed.

Rabbi Sprung has a number of role models who have shaped him over the years. First, was Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (zl).

I didnt know him personally, but he was a role model. As a teacher of Torah, he was the best. I frequently visit the Rabbi Sacks Legacy Trust website (rabbisacks.org).

And, theres my family, he continued. Our family business is Torah education. My grandfather was rosh yeshiva at Ner Israel [Rabbinical College] in Baltimore. The yeshiva was founded by my great-grandfather. My father was a pulpit rabbi for 40 years. My mother worked in Jewish education for 30 years.

On my moms side, there were rabbis and teachers for about 1,000 years, as traced back by my sister.

Im not a particularly rebellious person but I went to Bar Ilan University thinking I would be a lawyer. Once I got there, I found that I really wanted to be learning Torah instead of case law. I love being with people and thats part of my religious experience. I also strive to make Torah real in practice. Torah is something that we live by, not something abstract.

According to Rabbi Sprung, one of the major lessons of the rabbinate and close relationships of any kind is that life is a high-stakes game.

At Mount Sinai, G-d makes a deal with the Jewish people: You will be a holy people, a kingdom of priests. The priests job is to be a model: to do the right things, be upright and have a relationship with G-d. If you do things the right way, you will be a compelling model.

We are like the kohanim. We have to treat people with chesed and have a strong relationship with Hashem. We should be grateful for the positive things we have in life: living well, having a family, close friends and relatives. If we are honest with ourselves, thats the stuff we have to cherish.

Its so much better to be part of a loving community. We get to raise each other up, to learn from each other.

The new UOS president chaired the synagogues Transition Committee, which looked at evaluating Rabbi Sprung. Lerner told the JHV she is very happy that the synagogue hired Rabbi Sprung.

Of course, there was a process, but it was an easy decision to move forward with the process. Everybody was on board, said Lerner. He is so bright and learned. His divrei Torah are well-received. Hes developed programs and classes in Torah and Yiddishkeit. When he gives a shiur, he is able to weave material from multiple sources, including non-Jewish sources, as well. Hes a very positive and upbeat person who loves to share his knowledge of Torah.

Everybody has been happy with his pastoral care, continued Lerner, Whether its bikkur holim or helping people deal with loss, he clearly cares about people. He built relationships with people quickly. His children became part of the community. They made a very easy transition from Skokie to here. Were happy with what the future holds under his leadership.

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The future is now at UOS: Houston Modern Orthodox shul has new rabbi, new president and new building in the works - Jewish Herald-Voice

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