By Michael Sawan
After 24 years of service, Rabbi Hanan Balk has stepped down as the Head Rabbi of Golf Manor Synagogue. He is now the Rabbi Emeritus of the congregation and will be available to congregants upon request to lead special events.
In a memo announcing the rabbi’s resignation, Shmuel Plotsker, the Chairman of the Board at Golf Manor Synagogue, explained that the temple will not remain rabbi-less indefinitely: “Going forward, we will have guest rabbis officiating until a new permanent rabbi is found.” Similarly, all activities at the synagogue will continue on their normal schedule.
The memo offered high praises for Rabbi Balk, noting that “[the congregation] will miss his regular drashas, his marvelously creative and insightful weekly Torah classes in Talmud and Tanach and his powerful and uplifting voice davening for us at the Yomim Tovim and High Holiday Services.”
As to why Rabbi Balk is retiring, the only explanation the memo offered is that “Rabbi Balk’s decision was arrived at with great deliberation and concern for the well-being of the synagogue.”
Rabbi Balk himself fleshed out this explanation in a letter to congregants dated Oct. 22: “The painful decision was necessary due to the economic challenges that our congregation now faces as a result of the unfortunate splitting of our membership just over a year and a half ago. It was a decision that was made in consultation with the Board of Directors, in consideration of what would be best for both my future and that of the synagogue.”
Both Rabbi Balk’s letter and Plotsker’s memo contained positive praises. The memo states that “Rabbi Balk provided a clear, non-apologetic voice of halachic Judaism and Torah values.” This characterization is fleshed out by Rabbi Balk’s career and accolades, which includes publication in a wide variety of media, leadership positions on several local and national boards, a talk show on Local 12, and even meetings with Presidents Clinton and G.W. Bush. His education is of a similar pedigree, with degrees from Columbia University and rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University.
According to his official bio, Rabbi Balk has also taken great pride in his direction of Golf Manor Synagouge, having made it a place that is open “to all who enter its doors.” This includes “seasoned Torah scholars, those who are only beginning their journey toward a Torah life as well as many who seek to convert to the Jewish faith.”
In his letter, Rabbi Balk added more details concerning his leadership style: “I feel that I can say to you without reservation and with a clear conscience that your rabbi never sacrificed his integrity in any matter of halacha or in any matter that concerned this congregation.”
Rabbi Balk’s current plans, as outlined by his letter, are as follows: “I plan to continue to serve on some of the community boards and organizations of which I have been a part. Should individuals need to speak to me about halachic or personal issues, I will still be accessible, though at my home and not at the shul office. I hope to work on a book that will convey the original Torah insights that I have developed and shared in my tenure.” Later in the letter he adds: “I do not know as yet where it is that the Ribono shel Olam will choose to lead me so that I may continue to serve Him and the Jewish people, but I do know that wherever it is, I will never forget the experiences I had here with you.”