Local boy makes good down south

If a nice, Jewish boy from Westchester grows up and becomes a rabbi, you would think he would have plenty of pulpits close to home to choose from.

But Rabbi Arnold Belzer took a different path — to Savannah, Ga.

rabbibelzer.jpgFor the past two decades, he has led Congregation Mickve Israel, which happens to be the third-oldest Jewish congregation in the country.

The Jewish Week writes about the Reform congregation celebrating its 275th anniversary. Apparently, 43 Sephardic Jews arrived in 1733. For a while, they made up about one-third of the population in the new colony of Georgia.

It was the Torah Belt back then, I guess.

Today, Savannah is home to about 3,000 Jews, and the city’s Orthodox congregation is twice the size of Belzer’s congregation.

Belzer went to Iona College before becoming a rabbi and leading congregations in Ridgefield, Conn., and Bergen County, N.J.

Then he headed south.

“Every 25 years is a generation and we feel it’s important that the congregation celebrate and commemorate important events in its history,” Belzer says. “Telling our story is a very Jewish thing, it’s what we do.”