From Long Island via Louisville, Rabbi Michael Wolk Will Come to Charlotte in July
By Amy Krakovitz
Michael Wolk recognizes the uniqueness of Shalom Park. As the new senior pulpit rabbi at Temple Israel, he is looking forward to working in a community that is already accustomed to working together. “There’s a great deal of value for a smaller community to recognize that our way of being Jewish is not the only way, and that we have so much in common with other Jews.”
Born and raised in Plainview, NY, he grew up in a household where his father was the Cantor of the local Conservative shul. “My Jewish upbringing was very intense,” he admits. “We were Shomer Kashrut and Shomer Shabbes. I attended a Jewish day school till I graduated high school and I spent many years visiting relatives in Israel.”
After receiving dual Bachelor’s degrees from Columbia and the Jewish Theological Seminary, Wolk spent several years in Jewish communal work at synagogues in Ohio and New York state. He was ordained by JTS in 2012 and has served at Keneseth Yisrael in Louisville, KY ever since.
His move from a small metropolitan area to Charlotte affords him the opportunity to establish allegiances to professional sports franchises. “I am really a baseball fan, I love the Mets. As far as basketball goes, I am a Knicks and I’m grateful to find a new team in the Hornets.” He understands, too, the graceful balance in supporting college teams. “I carefully navigated between University of Louisville and University of Kentucky. I think I understand the delicacy needed to weigh allegiances to UNC and Duke,” he joked.
And has all his time in Kentucky given him a favorite bourbon? Not surprisingly, his choice is a small batch label whose brand evokes Biblical connections, Noah’s Mill.
But more seriously, Wolk is fully cognizant of the challenges ahead for him during a time of Shelter In Place and a dangerous pandemic. “My wildest and craziest wish is that we can all be back together inside the shul,” he says, “but at this point we just don’t know when we’ll be back to normal.”
The synagogue leadership is looking forward to Rabbi Wolk’s arrival. “Temple Israel is eager to welcome Senior Rabbi Michael Wolk, his wife, Heidi, and children, Klara Rose and Julia to our community,” said Temple Israel’s president, David Rosenthal. “As Temple Israel’s 21st Rabbi, against the backdrop of COVID-19, our kehillah anticipates a renaissance and renewed energy under his rabbinic leadership, inspiring all to enjoy meaningful relationships with one another, the broader community, Torah, and God through traditional and innovative expressions of Judaism.”
“My initial goal for the first year was to learn about the congregation and not make a lot of changes,” Wolk tell us. “But this new situation is going to be a journey for all of us.
“My hope is always to see people leading very Jewish lives, but if there is one thing we’ve learned during this time of COVID-19, it’s that synagogue is what you take home with you. We can make our Jewish lives at Temple Israel more meaningful, when we take what we get there home with us.”