BLOOMFIELD – The call comes from someone “deep in southwest Texas, headed for New Mexico.” It’s Stephen Landau, the new rabbi at Tikvoh Chadoshoh in Bloomfield, and he’s driving through the familiar landscape, visiting friends and family, catching up on rest, before taking the Connecticut pulpit on Aug. 1.
Landau is a Dallas native who lived and worked in New Mexico for 20 years before deciding to become a rabbi. A carpenter by trade, he was ordained on June 1 from Hebrew College in Newton, Mass.
“My heart is here in many ways,” he says of the American southwest, “and I always expected to return here or to the mountain states of the American west. But something happened when I went to visit Tikvoh Chadoshoh. Even though I had other opportunities, they basically won my heart.”
Landau will succeed Rabbi Lily Kaufmann, who served Tikvoh for seven years and left this summer to become the Theresa Berman Director of Jewish Learning at Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka, Minn.
“There was something very non-concrete about my attraction to Tikvoh,” Landau says. “The congregants’ attitude and culture, the community they’ve built over 70 years, match my dreams and vision for community. It has a lovely, chavurah-like intimacy that you don’t often find once a congregation gets bigger than 50 or 60 families. They care very deeply about each other as individuals and Jews, and they’re very good to their rabbi. They’re easy to love.”
Landau says that while he always identified as a Jew, he was raised in a Jewish-secular family, with a high degree of ethnic, cultural, and historical identity with Judaism. “I’ve always been a person intrigued with the unseen, with what we don’t see or know,” he says. “In a Jewish sense, I’ve always been intrigued more with the questions much more than the answers.”