Newburyport rabbi leaving for teaching job in Chicago

JIM VAIKNORAS/Staff file photoRabbi Benjamin Resnick, dressed as The Dude from “The Big Lebowski,” announces the winners of a costume contest at a Purim celebration at Congregation Ahavas Achim in Newburyport. 

NEWBURYPORT – Congregation Ahavas Achim Rabbi Benjamin Resnick said Monday he is leaving the temple in two weeks to take a teaching job in Chicago. 

Taking his place as the temple’s spiritual leader will be board of directors member Alex Matthews, who also serves as the synagogue’s secretary, according to Resnick. 

Resnick, who announced his departure to the board months ago and temple members more recently, said the decision was based on finding a position closer to where he grew up and where his parents still live. After taking July off, Resnick starts his new job in August. 

“We’ve loved our time in Newburyport, we’re also excited to explore a new chapter,” Resnick said. “I’m very proud of the work here. The synagogue has been a part of the fabric of Newburyport for over 100 years and it was a real privilege to lead an institution that has been here for so long.” 

Congregation Ahavas Achim co-President Susan Latham said Resnick fulfilled his three-year contract with the temple and decided not to renew so he could pursue another opportunity. 

“It’s like losing a part of the family when the rabbi leaves,” Latham said. “We’re sad he’s leaving but we’re excited for him.”  

Latham called Resnick an asset to the community and praised his efforts to unite people of all faiths locally following the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October. Eleven people were killed at Tree of Life synagogue in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. 

“He was incredible,” she said. 

Latham also said Resnick is beloved in the Hebrew school community and led more than a dozen bar and bat mitzvahs during his tenure. 

Latham stopped short of confirming Matthews as the temple’s new leader, saying they were close but still in the process of hiring someone. 

“It’s a community process so it takes time,” she said. “You really need to involve everyone to make a good decision for the whole community.” 

When asked about his three years leading Newburyport’s Jewish temple, Resnick said he and his family were proud to be a part of the city’s spirituality. But he also said that in terms of combating anti-Semitism within city limits and elsewhere, there is much more to be done. 

“Everyone wants to do the right thing, but there’s a lot of work to do. Cultural change takes time,” he said.

In recent weeks, Newburyport school officials and other community leaders responded to complaints regarding a perceived lack of transparency involving acts of anti-Semitism at Newburyport High School and other schools. Since then, Resnick has sat in on meetings he called “encouraging” but little else. 

“I think that nothing has changed in the last two weeks,” Resnick said. 

Congregation Ahavas Achim, founded in 1896, is located at 53½ Washington St. and counts more than 100 member families as congregants. 

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached by email at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter: @drogers41008.