âHe just hit all the right marks,â said Shara Taylor, recalling his initial interview with Grant Halasz, the first director of ruach and youth engagement at Temple Ohav Shalom. “He was there.”
Talyor, who served on the search committee for the post, recalled that after Halasz’s first interview, âpeople were just speechless. He exudes youth and enthusiasm. It was just the perfect fit.
Halasz will be responsible for much of the music for the Reformed congregation in Allison Park, including conducting songs in Shabbat services and working with temple youth.
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Halasz grew up in Centerville, Ohio, a suburb near Dayton. His love of Jewish music was incubated during the summers at the camp. After years of attending day camps at his local JCC and Chabad center, he spent a summer at the Union of Reform Judaism’s Kutz night camp at the suggestion of his rabbi, Judy Chessin of Temple Beth Or in Dayton, when she found out he was playing guitar.
After that, Halasz, 23, spent two summers at Camp GUCI (Goldman Union Camp Institute) as a counselor and vocal leader, then a summer at an URJ camp in Cincinnati, Ohio, then back at Camp GUCI as a vocal coach.
Halasz, who is new to Pittsburgh, received his BA in Judaic Studies from the University of Cincinnati, where he was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Jewish fraternity and was co-chair of Jewish life on the Hillel Student Council.
In terms of interests and experience, for Halasz, the new position at Ohav Shalom ticks all the boxes. He said he will be in charge of most of the “musical moments” in the congregation and that Rabbi Jeremy Weisblatt told him he should work on creating the youth group and developing new programs for it. adolescents and young children during the summer holidays. . Halasz added that he will be involved in religious school and other parts of the life of the congregation.
The president of the congregation, Yuval Kossovsky, said that the position of ruach and engagement of young people is important in the evolution of the Ohav Shalom temple.
âIt was the right room to fill out,â he said. âWe needed someone who had an engaging voice and personality, and the Rabbi needed a good partner. It seemed like the most appropriate way to do it.
Kossovsky believes Halasz is the right fit for the job as the congregation embraces the technological advances brought about by the pandemic and searches for new ways to engage members – both virtually and in person.
âThere seems to be a big change in how we have to engage,â Kossovsky said. âThe traditional type of Hebrew school and liturgy doesn’t work for a lot of young people, so what do we do? How do you make them feel that when it is time to make their parents’ religion their own, they have an affinity? “
Ohav Shalom, Kossovsky stressed, is looking to the future.
âIt’s about the connection,â he said. âHow do we use technology? I don’t think it’s going to go away. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know it is changing. I think Grant is going to add a lot to our program.
Taylor said it was Weisblatt who first learned of Halasz’s existence and reported him to the search committee.
âI am excited about the new vision we are implementing with Grant,â Weisblatt said. “I love his experience and I focus on experiential worship – his willingness to pay homage to tradition, to stick to tradition, and to move it forward.”
Judaism has a history of being experiential, Weisblatt said, and Ohav Shalom’s Judaism program goes in that direction.
âNow we have someone who is educated in it, who lived it and who helped bring it to life,â the rabbi said.
“He will, I think, help realize our vision and our dream in the North Hills.”
For Halasz, who considered going to rabbinical school before accepting the post at Ohav Shalom, the future is now.
âIt’s very exciting,â said Halasz. âI can’t wait to seize this opportunity and make it my own. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. PJC
David Rullo can be contacted at [email protected]