Rabbi Judah Dardik, the senior rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland since 2001, announced this week that he will leave the Modern Orthodox synagogue next June, and will make aliyah to Israel with his family.
The Dardiks plan to settle in Neve Daniel, located in the Gush Etzion cluster of settlements in the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. The rabbi’s sister lives in the town, and the Dardiks have spent several recent summers there. They plan to make the move in July 2014.
“I knew 20 years ago I wanted to be in Israel,” Dardik said. “I was growing in my ‘homesickness.’ It’s home for me as a Jew, and every year that has gone by it was, ‘When am I going to do this already?’ ”
He said the time for the move was right for his five children, the oldest of whom is an eighth-grader at Oakland Hebrew Day School, the youngest 8 months old.
“This is not a decision that we have made lightly, nor has it been easy to conclude,” Dardik, 39, wrote in an email to synagogue members this week. “We so deeply love this community. Among its members are some of the kindest, most thoughtful and intelligent people of fine character that we have ever been privileged to meet … but after a great deal of soul searching, I just don’t want to put off this dream any longer. I am a Jew who wants to go home after all these millennia.”
A native of Tenafly, N.J., Dardik has written a regular Torah commentary column for J. since 2005. His wife, Naomi, was for many years a Jewish studies teacher at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay; in 2008, she won a Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.
The rabbi hopes to work in adult education and Jewish outreach, perhaps in the Gush Etzion area, which has a population of about 70,000, while his wife will work in clinical social work or research.
Aimee Fisher, president of the board at Beth Jacob, wrote in an email: “My emotions are mixed because, on the one hand, I am thrilled for them to realize their dream — and a dream for so many of us — to live in Israel, [but] on the other hand so profoundly saddened to say goodbye to a rabbinic couple who has made such an enormous impact on me personally as well as on our community.”
Fisher noted that a search committee has been formed to help find a new senior rabbi. — dan pine