Beth Shalom of Lake Norman has welcomed a new rabbinical student to lead its congregation for the next two years.
Adam Baldachin, in his fourth year at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, began his tenure at Beth Shalom this fall.
The congregation is one of a few conservative Jewish communities in the United States chosen to participate in the Gladstein Fellowship program, which pairs rabbinical students with emerging congregations.
Baldachin is Beth Shalom's third rabbinical student leader and will serve until July 2013. He was preceded by Corey Helfand and Jeremy Gerber.
Beth Shalom "is close-knit, and I really get to know the congregants," Baldachin said. "For the first time in my life, I really feel like I am a rabbi."
Baldachin, 27, lives in New York with his wife, Maital Friedman, and their 10-month-old son, Shalev. He will spend one weekend a month in North Carolina, leading services, teaching classes and meeting with Beth Shalom congregants.
Baldachin grew up in New Providence, N.J., where he was involved with a conservative synagogue. The rabbi there talked to him about being part of sacred moments with families, including weddings, baby namings and bar and bat mitzvahs.
"It was something that seemed very beautiful to me," Baldachin said.
He graduated with degrees in American history and Talmud from a joint program between Columbia University and the JTS, then took a few years off before beginning rabbinical school.
On a trip to Israel as an undergraduate student, Baldachin met Friedman, then a student at Princeton University. After they married, they spent a year in Uganda, where Friedman built a library in a local community and Baldachin served a Jewish community.
In the United States, he taught at the same Jewish middle school he attended as a child before returning to the JTS for rabbinical school.
At Beth Shalom, Baldachin will provide leadership and spiritual guidance to help the community grow. Beth Shalom was founded in 1997 and now has about 50 families.
On his weekends in North Carolina, Baldachin will arrive Friday morning and have lunch with Beth Shalom congregants. He will lead Friday night and Saturday services, teach adult education classes and meet with Beth Shalom's Hebrew school students on Sunday morning. He flies home to New York on Sunday afternoons.
Friedman and Shalev will accompany Baldachin to North Carolina twice a year, he said.