Rabbi Jeshayahu “Shai” Beloosesky is settling in with his new congregation after he was appointed the new rabbi at Temple Avodah, in Oceanside, the fourth rabbi in the history of the Reform temple. A native of Israel and a retired colonel in the Israel Defense Forces, Beloosesky takes over from Rabbi Uri Goren, who retired after guiding the congregation for 26 years. Goren is now Rabbi Emeritus.
Beloosesky, 61, who prefers to go by Rabbi Shai, is a third-generation Holocaust survivor. Raised in Israel by his parents and grandparents, he served in the Israeli military for 29 years, rising to assistant to the military secretary to the prime minister and minister of defense under the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He earned a doctorate in ministry from Hebrew Union College in New York City.
While he was in the military, Beloosesky decided he wanted to help people in other ways, which led him to become a rabbi. He began studying for rabbinical school in the military, with the permission of the IDF, and was ordained in 2011.
“I asked myself, ‘What are you going to do in the world?’” he recalled. “‘How are you going to make the world a better place?’ Then I decided this meant rabbinical school.”
He served as the leading rabbi of Congregation Or-Hadash in Haifa, Israel, and then decided to come to the United States in 2015, because he wanted to take on the challenge of reaching more people. For the past eight years he has been the spiritual leader of the Congregation Children of Israel synagogue in Augusta, Georgia.
“I came to the U.S. to try to take on another mission, to be a rabbi in the U.S., try to find a congregation and try to engage people,” Beloosesky said. “For me it was a great, great mission. It was a wonderful congregation, and eight years there to bring Judaism to people.”
Beloosesky has four boys, Eli, 27, Nave, 25, Aner, 21, and Lael, 17. Eli and Nave are in the military in Israel, and Aner is serving in the Israeli Air Force. With his family in Israel, their father said, it was lonely in the beginning, but once he started to communicate with people and other families, his world began to open up.
“It’s about how much you as a person want to connect to other people,” the rabbi said. “I like to speak with people. I want to listen to my people. I want to listen to their feelings and emotions. I am a rabbi who will stand by my people. I will stand near everybody who is in need, because the divine God Almighty created all of us in his image — Muslims, Christians, and Jews.”
After eight years in Georgia, Beloosesky decided that he wanted to make a change in another area, and after interviewing with several congregations, he decided that Temple Avodah would be where he would carry out his next mission. He now lives in Long Beach, and said he wants to market Temple Avodah outside the community.
“I think he’s a very dynamic individual,” said Eric Abbey, first vice president of the temple. He is diving in and really getting involved in not only Temple Avodah, but the community, and has re-energized a lot of the community, and we’re picking up right where we left off pre-Covid.”
Some of the new initiatives that Beloosesky is implementing at the synagogue include a one-hour Saturday open discussion group, Ask the Rabbi, and he has invited more men to take part in the lighting of Shabbat candles on Friday evenings. He is also recruiting more congregants take part in services in general, opening and closing the ark that holds the Torah scrolls.
“He has immediately made himself a vital part of our temple community,” its president, Matt Phillips, said. “Just like Rabbi Goren was, Rabbi Shai has become not only our rabbi but also our friend, in a short amount of time.”
As he continues to settle in, Beloosesky said he has ambitious goals for Temple Avodah. “I am happy here,” he said, “and my goal in the long run is that Temple Avodah Oceanside will be the center of the reform movement on the South Shore of Long Island.”