Rabbi Koch assumes pulpit at SMJC
By Paul Haist
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South Metro Jewish Congregation has hired a new rabbi to succeed Rabbi Larry Halpern who recently retired from the West Linn Reform pulpit.
Rabbi Annette Koch is a New York native who grew up in Brooklyn.
She is relatively new to the rabbinate, having recently completed the Reform movement's five-year program of study at Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, which included an initial year of study at the school's Jerusalem campus.
She was ordained on May 7 of this year.
Before choosing the rabbinate, Koch worked as an attorney who specialized in international commercial finance and political risk insurance.
"I left (the law) because there was something that was much more important and satisfying and called me," she said, adding about that call to the rabbinate, "I couldn't not do this anymore."
Her journey from the law to the pulpit was abetted, said Koch, by her increasing involvement as a lay leader at her congregation in New York.
"By becoming a very active lay leader, I was exposed to Jewish learning, and the more I was exposed to Jewish learning, and the more I got involved, the more powerful the need to study became," she said.
She also credited Rabbi Elyse Frishman for helping to motivate her decision to become a rabbi. Frishman, who now serves at Temple B'nai Jeshrun, the Barnard Temple, in Franklin Lakes, N.J., formerly was the rabbi at Koch's home synagogue in Suffern, N.Y.
During her years of study for the rabbinate, Koch served as a student rabbi at congregations in Bridgeport, Conn.; Hickory, N.C. and East Liverpool, Ohio. She also served as a hospice chaplain for the Jewish Family Service of Union County, N.J.
She said her decision to accept South Metro's offer of its pulpit was predicated on three factors: "their progressive and liberal understanding of what it means to be a Reform Jew," "their commitment to preserving their Jewish heritage and passing it on to their children," and "their warmth as a community and as individuals."
Noting that her choice of the rabbinate did not mean that she was disillusioned in her law career, Koch expressed interest in the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland's special interest group known as Solomon's Legacy. The group brings together Jewish legal professionals. She said her interest arose from her "personal sense of connection to Jewish tradition and Jewish law."
For the immediate future, however, she said her central focus is "getting to know the members of South Metro Jewish Community."