Rabbi Michael Gilboa is the founding rabbi of “The Footpath,” a community conversion program started in partnership with Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, which now continues online.
Rabbi Michael Gilboa, the new full-time rabbi of B’nai Israel Synagogue in West Bloomfield, is officially settled in Metro Detroit. He joined the B’nai Israel community virtually on May 1, but officially moved to Metro Detroit in mid-June along with his wife, Emily, and three children.
Gilboa received his rabbinic M.A. and his ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University of Los Angeles. He has served as the rabbi of Ahavath Achim Hebrew Congregation in Wichita, Kan., and Congregation Beth Jacob in Fresno, Calif. He is the founding rabbi of “The Footpath,” a community conversion program started in partnership with Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, which now continues online.
Gilboa is a convert himself. He had encountered Judaism in one way or another throughout his formative years, but it accelerated when he was in college and ended up being active in the Hillel.
“One thing led to another, and I was Jewish,” Gilboa said.
Even with the new job, Gilboa is still teaching classes at The Footpath.
A Perfect Fit
While speaking with B’nai Israel about where his career was and where he wanted it to be, Gilboa said that while he loves his work with The Footpath, it only consists of 24-week courses at a time. Gilboa wanted more than a temporary Jewish community.
“I was feeling like looking for something more stable and to build relationships that last longer than 24 weeks,” Gilboa said. “I’m very excited to keep doing The Footpath, and I’m also very excited to be at B’nai Israel and to begin developing those friendships and relationships.”
Gilboa believes B’nai Israel has an interesting energy, with the best of the old and the new.
“They fit me to a tee,” Gilboa said. “I am a traditional rabbi. I love the Jewish tradition and engaging with our timeless spiritual practices.
“At the same time, I love that entrepreneurial, startup energy and seeing how we can apply the old, time-tested wisdom in new and innovative ways.”
Hopefully moving into the final phases of the pandemic, Gilboa believes in lessons learned from this time, such as how we could get by with less and how some things that seemed really important actually weren’t.
“The thing that turned out to be most important was other human beings, relationships and connections, and I think that’s at the heart of the synagogue I would like to be a part of,” Gilboa said.
Going forward, Gilboa believes successful synagogues are going to have a focus that puts greater attention on reaching people online and is excited for what that could look like.
“I have congregants at B’nai Israel who live in other states, but they continue to come to services, which we couldn’t do 10 years ago, it’s really fantastic,” Gilboa said. “I hope that keeps going and we find ways to use this technology to continue connecting and sharing the beauty and wisdom that comes with being Jewish.”