By Donna Newman

The congregation of Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook launches a new direction this summer with a modern approach: Joyful Judaism — and the Temple’s search committee found the perfect spiritual leader to guide this transition. 

“We’re very excited to welcome Rabbi Joshua Gray and his family to Long Island to bring music, spirituality and joy to our lives,” said Temple President Howie Kanowitz. “Upon receipt of the unanimous approval of the search committee, the Temple board and the congregation, Rabbi Josh will serve us as both rabbi and cantor. This is his first pulpit, and we hope he’ll lead our community for a long, long time.”  

A recently ordained rabbi at 36 years of age, he brings to his rabbinate a wealth of life, work, and Jewishservice experiences that makes him uniquely qualified to speak to the inclusive Jewish spirit of today. His life journey began in the theater.

“My beginnings as a professional actor/singer opened my voice and spirit up to endless possibilities that manifest themselves in the way I approach Judaism; musically and full of ‘simcha’ (joy), acceptance andpassion,” said Rabbi Josh. “I am also very family-oriented, as I believe that the voices of children and families ina sanctuary create holiness. My amazing wife, Meghan, is my favorite cantorial soloist, with her incredible voice and spirit. Our children, Cameron (8) and Lena (3), keep us engaged with the youngest of congregants.” 

Prior work experience in Rabbi Josh’s background added an additional skill set to his already impressive resumé.

“In addition to his warmth and approachability, Rabbi Josh has a BA in Psychology from Penn State and has worked in the field of mental health, which we considered to be a bonus, especially in the stressful times in which we live,” said Marge Weiser, co-chair of the search committee.

Working with a Reform and a Conservative congregation in upstate New York, Rabbi Josh designed anddelivered a three-part course on mental health and wellness as seen through a Jewish lens.

In a cover letter sent with his resumé he wrote, “To put it simply, I am a Rabbi who tries to live the spirit of’Hineini’— Here I am!” 

His exuberance for Judaism, scholarship, pastoral care, liturgy, and teaching all ages is abundantly clear. After a time as an independent rabbi providing ritual services, lifecycle events and Jewish education, he says he is ready to be infused with the soul of a community and become a congregational rabbi.

“Every member of the search committee had the same feeling following our very first interview with Rabbi Josh,” said committee member Gary Kamen. “It felt as though it was divine intervention that brought him to us. In Yiddish there is the word  ‘bashert’ which translates in English to ‘meant to be.’ We are delighted to have found each other.”