Monday, July 22, 2024

Josh Broide

From Africa to the Northeast to South Florida, Josh Broide has immersed himself in communities around the globe that have enriched his faith.

“We don’t know why we’re born in a certain place, and why we end up in another,” Broide says. “Each experience I had in each one of the communities I lived in was certainly a unique Jewish experience.”

The same can be said about spending time with Broide, who is anything but your garden-variety rabbi. This Howard Stern-admiring, rock music enthusiast is an onion of a man, someone whose layers delve far beyond the ancient texts he studies. Above all else, the founder/director of the Boca Raton Jewish Experience loves people, and he strives to help them find what they’re looking for, whether or not their beliefs align with his own.

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Broide was surrounded by a passionate Jewish community devoid of denomination. In 1985, when apartheid began taking its toll, his family left for the states, moving to Elizabeth, N.J., where they had relatives.

Broide, only 10 at the time of the move, grew up appreciating Jersey’s rock icons—Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. In high school, he dreamed of being a drummer in Guns & Roses; the idea of becoming a rabbi was nowhere on his radar.

It wasn’t until he spent a gap year in Israel, after graduating from high school, that his curiosity for Judaism grew. For the first time, he met rabbis who were invested in him, and he wondered if he could pursue a rabbinic path, despite his lack of Hebrew skills. Coming from South Africa, he’d been behind since fifth grade and had just squeezed by in high school.

Still, he would go on to attend rabbinical school in Baltimore while simultaneously earning a master’s degree in both special education and school administration. It was through his studies in special education that he learned the importance of teaching to the person as opposed to the masses.

“Everyone is unique. Everyone is an individual,” Broide says. “That was the best lesson ever—a lesson for my kids; a lesson for my career.”

Broide and wife Simone moved to South Florida with their two daughters in 2000 for what he thought would be no more than a two-year hiatus from Maryland. He began as the youth director at the Boca Raton Synagogue; 15 years later, he still calls South Florida home.

Now the father of six, Broide is working in conjunction with the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County as its director of community engagement to open the lines of communication between Jewish leaders and the unobserving Jewish population.

“The idea is to give Jews in the community a Jewish experience on their terms,” Broide says. “We’re sort of changing the mind-set of how to deal with those who are not connected.”

Through Jewish Pride Films and Internet-based Jewish Pride Radio, he is using new mediums to start a conversation that encourages Jews to join in. He aims to focus on the positive aspects of Jewish life—a break from the turmoil that usurps almost every news item pertaining to Judaism. He sees the potential for a flourishing Jewish community in Boca—a community that is welcoming and open to change.

In striving to create a sense of belonging, Broide isn’t trying to change the individual. Judaism is multifaceted, as are the people who practice it, and he is no exception. He may be an Orthodox rabbi, but Judaism hasn’t altered the person he was before his religious inclination—as much as it has elevated the person he has grown up to be.

“I think as a rabbi and someone who is very involved in the community, [moving from place to place has] helped shape me,” he says. “I’ve seen so many different perspectives, and I can appreciate where people are coming from.”

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