By KIM COOL
VENICE — Rabbi Benjamin Shull will become the fourth full-time spiritual leader of the Jewish Congregation of Venice on Monday.
He succeeds Rabbi Harold Caminker who is moving to North Carolina to be closer to his family.
“The stars were aligned,” Shull said. “I was here 20 years ago for a high holiday service.
Shull and his wife, Stacy Lang, had met and were living in Tampa at the time. He was serving as the executive director of Tampa Jewish Services before moving north. He had previously spent a year in Israel and a year in Los Angeles.
The Shulls loved Florida yet the north beckoned and is where they raised their five children.
Timing is everything. This was the year the Shulls would finally return to Florida, fortuitously to Venice. The rabbi was retiring as the spiritual leader of the Tikvat Israel Congregation at Rockville, Maryland, where he had been the spiritual leader since 2015.
Born in Philadelphia, Shull attended Camp Ramah, a conservative Jewish camp where his thoughts of becoming a rabbi were formed. Shull’s great-grandfather, Avraham Michel Shull, was identified as “the Rabbi of Philadelphia,” on a family tree that the present-day rabbi recently discovered on the internet.
When he was 13, the family moved to Virginia. He graduated from the University of Virginia and the Theological Jewish Seminary of America in Manhattan. The rabbi also holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from Columbia University. His wife has a Ph.D. in social work.
Seeing synagogue work as community building, Shull said he considers his social work training an asset to those duties which are in addition to dealing with the ministerial needs of the congregation. He also has a history of community outreach and interfaith activities. As several JCV members have long been involved in the Venice Interfaith Council, that seems to be another fit.
“There is a Jewish expression, ‘beshert’ (common meaning ‘destiny’),” he said. “My wife and I would have come here anyway, but I saw an ad in the Jewish paper in Sarasota.”
He responded to the ad and was hired.
With a starting date of July 1, he will begin meeting informally with small groups of congregation members. The congregation’s fourth full-time rabbi will conduct his first service Friday, July 5, at sundown at the JCV.
The Jewish Congregation of Venice is at 600 North Auburn Road, Venice. Call 941-484-2022 or visit: jewishcongregationofvenice.com