New rabbi hopes temple will become spiritual home to those without


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Temple Beth Sholom’s new Rabbi Joel Fox hopes to give more Jewish believers a spiritual home to study the Torah and connect with all things Jewish.

Linda Wiggins

For Rabbi Joel Fox, moving to Viera was as much for personal family reasons as it was for professional advancement.

The new spiritual leader at the conservative synagogue Temple Beth Sholom in Suntree was named to the post in August. Prospective congregants will have a chance to meet the new rabbi in the New Year at a special service at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 9 at the temple, located at 5995 N. Wickham Rd.

“Being here has been a gift from God and a wonderful opportunity to live my dream and calling,” said Fox, who had been a cantor at a synagogue in South Florida. A cantor is traditionally second in command and focuses on the musical delivery of the religious message, while a rabbi focuses on directing study of the Torah, or Bible. Fox became a rabbi two months before taking the Suntree job.

“It was also an opportunity to move my young family to an area with excellent schools, low crime, and a great lifestyle surrounded by beauty,” Fox added.

Fox’s wife, Natalie, launched a Suntree business creating marketing materials and providing other graphic design services for businesses, while their two daughters and son attend Manatee Elementary, Kennedy Middle and Viera High schools.

Fox’s selection as rabbi will be a pivotal one for Brevard, a community with a relatively small percentage of people of Jewish faith. Temple Beth Sholom is as much a cultural center as a house of worship, providing an opportunity to network and obtain foods and products key to faith and culture not readily available in Brevard. It offers regular worship and study opportunities that include the traditional Friday evenings and Saturday mornings of Sabbath, as well as community events that help members and the community at large.

The Viera/Suntree area is home to two of the three main Jewish congregations in the county. Temple Israel in Viera to the west of Temple Beth Sholom is reform, while the Chabad of the Space & Treasure Coasts in Satellite Beach to the east is orthodox. This places Temple Beth Sholom in the geographic center of a near straight corridor swatch across the center of Brevard, as well as the center of the Jewish faith spectrum.

He and Temple Israel’s Rabbi Patricia Hickman both served as cantors at their respective conservative and reform temples in Jacksonville two decades ago and have renewed their friendship.

Already, the former cantors have performed together at a Nov. 15 religious concert featuring worldwide Jewish pop star Sheldon Low at Temple Beth Sholom. Both temples are members of the Jewish Federation of Brevard, a nonprofit religious and cultural association that also meets community social service needs.

Fox has also reached out to the Chabad, riding motorcycles in tandem with the orthodox spiritual leader Rabbi Zvi Konikov in the annual Chabad Across Brevard Menorah Parade Dec. 18. The gregariously disarming and likable Fox said he hopes to call out Jewish families across Brevard and neighboring counties who do not currently have a temple membership.

“My goal is to help create a warm and caring spiritual home filled with a passion for study, worship and acts of loving kindness.”

For more information on the temple or the special service, call Dawn Hawkins at 321-254-6333 or go to mytbs.org. The service will honor and be run by the Sisterhood Shabbat, the women of the congregation who run the kitchen and raise funds for youth and the synagogue at large.