STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Rabbi Judah Kogen was determined not to be a rabbi.
Rabbi Kogen, the new spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in West Brighton, brings with him to Staten Island a wealth of experience in leading congregations of every size, in developing high-level educational programs for both adults and youth, and in helping Conservative Jews understand what it really means to be a Conservative Jew.
Rabbi Kogen was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. He moved with his family to Manhattan’s West Side as a boy of 6 when his father, Rabbi David Kogen, became the vice chancellor of Jewish Theological Seminary.
He studied Bible at JTS while also enrolled at City College of New York, and he went to the JTS rabbinical school while studying at Columbia University’s graduate school.
After serving large congregations, Rabbi Kogen realized that “what I was chasing wasn’t there.”
The congregation had 160 members, more than three-quarters of whom were over 70. The rabbi also served congregations in Larchmont, N.Y., and Newington, Conn., before taking a job at the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills — the Queens synagogue where eight Torah scrolls were reported stolen over the weekend.
The rabbi comes to B’nai Jeshurun following the retirement a year ago of its longtime spiritual leader, Rabbi Judah Newberger.
The rabbi emeritus and new rabbi led services together during one of Rabbi Kogen’s first Sabbaths on the Island, helping to smooth the transition.
Rabbi Kogen said he was interested in the Island’s oldest congregation because “B’nai Jeshurun was seeking the kind of leadership I can offer.
A “recovering New York Yankees fan,” Rabbi Kogen maintains an avid interest in Israeli music and in politics. Parents thinking about enrolling their children in B’nai Jeshurun’s Hebrew School can meet the rabbi — who will serve as its principal — at an open house and barbecue Sept. 7.