New rabbi shares faith, commitment


By Sarah Freedman, Contributing Writer

New rabbi shares faith, commitment
Rabbi Scott Sokol (Photo/Sarah Freedman)

Marlborough – Scott Sokol, the new rabbi at Temple Emanuel, has an interesting mix of passions and studies, and they all lead to one goal – teaching the Jewish faith to the next generation and continuing tradition.

Sokol, who was the part-time cantor at Temple Beth Sholom in Framingham for eight years, found out about the opportunity at Temple Emanuel from a former cantorial student of his, Linda Sue Sohn.

Sohn studied at the cantor school he founded at Hebrew College in Newton and was the one who suggested that he would be a good fit for the job.

He, however, believed Sohn was a good candidate herself.

Sokol said, “I actually recommended she apply for it.”

They reached a compromise since Sohn felt that she was not ready to take the reins alone. After presenting the idea to the Temple Emanuel leadership, he accepted the job with Sohn as the Temple's cantor.

“That's how the idea was sprung,” he said.

He and Sohn hope to “do a lot with teaching new music” to young cantors.

By working together, he added, they want to help the community.

“That's one big piece of it,” Sokol explained. “It gives me the opportunity to serve. It's a great community.”

And, for Sokol, serving the Temple Emanuel members mean many diverse, yet somehow cohesive interests.

He hopes to focus on helping children with disabilities like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and autism.

Sokol is currently a professor of psychology at Hebrew College, where he also teaches Jewish education and music, liturgy, life cycle officiating and nusach [the style and melody of a service] to rabbinical and cantorial students.

“I just really like to teach,” he said. “I think to become a teacher you really have to learn. You have to be a learner first.”

With a Ph.D. from John Hopkins University, he was a practicing psychologist before being ordained in June 2012. As a clinical psychologist, he believes he can better help the people who come to him, whether they are in crisis and need spiritual guidance or have special needs.

“It helps to have that clinical background,” he said.

Sokol is a man of many passions and teaching Jewish law and music are two of them – areas that are more compatible than they may at first appear.

Music and scripture, the source of numerous Jewish traditions related to marriage, divorce and conducting business negotiations, are closely linked, according to Sokol.

“There are very special laws,” he added.

In fact, one tenet of the Jewish faith is the “idea of bringing beauty to law” and scripture by setting them to music.

“Music has a more direct link to people's lives,” he said. “We don's read the Bible. We “cant” the Bible.”

He called Temple Emanuel a “vibrant” community with people who are always happy to welcome others into it.

It is Sokol's wish to teach others about the Jewish faith.

“My greatest hope is to bring the beauty of our traditions to the community,” he said.