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Rabbi will speak on ‘Jews by choice’ at service Friday

Staff reports

Rabbi Gershon Blackmore, who considers the topic of “Jews by choice,” or converted Jews, to be one of his specialty areas as a Jewish religious and spiritual leader, will conduct a special Sabbath service at Temple Bat Yam on Friday, Aug. 18.

Now living in Reno following his June 11 marriage to Rabbi Myra Soifer of Temple Sinai, Rabbi Blackmore will be the sixth participant in this summer’s visiting rabbi program for the only Jewish congregation that serves Lake Tahoe’s South Shore, Carson City and Minden-Gardnerville.

The service at the temple, 3260 Pioneer Trail in South Lake Tahoe, will begin at 7:30 p.m., followed by a dessert reception. It is open to the public.

“I am essentially a convert to Judaism; though ‘born Jewish,’ I was raised in a religious vacuum and had to find my way back into our ancestral path by myself,” Rabbi Blackmore said, in explaining his specialty area of Jews by choice. “This has given me a certain, highly personal perspective on the themes of rootlessness, the struggle to find meaning and community, that so pervade modern culture.

“From this perspective, as a Jew by choice, I have brought to my rabbinate many gifts: a gift of conviction, a strong pastoral identity, an ability to preach with power and precision, to write with clarity and force, to guide with empathy and with craft, to teach with creativity and with wonder.”

Functioning as both rabbi and cantor, Rabbi Blackmore also will chant his own Sabbath prayers during the service.

Prior to moving to Northern Nevada this summer, Rabbi Blackmore served four years at Temple Beth El in Fargo, N.D., during which time he also served as adjunct assistant professor of religion at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.

He also is a pastoral psychotherapist in private practice, a course he plans to pursue in his new home. His areas of specialty include couple and family consultation around major life changes, religiously intermarrying couples, art therapy with children and adults and adolescent therapy.

Ordained as a rabbi in 1979, he previously served as a rabbi of two congregations, one reform and one conservative, in Syracuse, N.Y., from 1985 to 1996. During that period, he was also chaplain of Hutchings Psychiatric Center.

From 1979 to 1985, he served as spiritual leader of the Rabbi Moses Montefiore Congregation in Bloomington, Ill., and as a lecturer in religion at Illinois Wesleyan University.