Five Personal Things to Know About Rabbi Marc Israel
The two met nearly 30 years ago in Ann Arbor, Mich., as undergraduate peer educators at orientation for the campus Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center. (“While I had an inkling from the start, it took me a bit longer to convince Abbey that we were meant for one another!” he says.) After graduating, Abbey got a dual master’s in social welfare policy from Columbia University, and the pair moved to Washington where she worked on social policy issues for the government and independent research sector. For the past three years, Abbey has worked for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, currently as director of program operations.
No. 2: He has three teenage children.
Daughter Elianna graduates this spring from the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, Pa., where she played on the varsity basketball team. As of early April, her father reported, “She will be going to U of M – just not clear if that M will be Michigan or Maryland!”
Son Micah, 16, is finishing 10th grade and will remain enrolled at Barrack so he can attend the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program for the first third of his junior year with his classmates. “Despite the lure of the Washington sports teams, he will finish high school in Philadelphia and will come to Rockville on weekends and holidays,” the rabbi said.
Youngest son Oren will became a bar mitzvah on May 11 and looks forward to 8th grade back where he started kindergarten at what was known at the time as the Jewish Primary Day School and now is the recently rebuilt Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital.
No. 3: He and his family remained loyal Washington sports fans despite a six-year relocation to Philadelphia.
“Six years ago, when I first told our children that we were moving to Philadelphia, my middle son Micah’s first words were ‘Fine, but we will NOT become Phillies fans.’ He and the rest of our family have remained true to his word,” Rabbi Israel says. “We always felt strong ties to this community because of family, friends, our interest in politics and, yes, because of our affinity for its sports teams.”
No. 4: He wears his allegiance to all things University of Michigan on his sleeves.
“Does a University of Michigan banner unfurled outside your home indicate devotion to his alma mater?” asks Rabbi Lyle Fishman of Ohr Kodesh Congregation, where he and Rabbi Marc Israel were colleagues for eight years.
Further, Rabbi Fishman said he quickly learned how to “ingratiate myself with Rabbi Israel” — by humming the tune of the Michigan fight song, “The Victors.”
“The expression ‘Go Blue’ is never far from his lips or from his thoughts.” Rabbi Fishman added.
Rabbi Israel and his wife Abbey Frank, both alumni, have passed along that passion to their children. Their son Micah’s bar mitzvah used a logo that one attendee said “strongly resembled” the Michigan M. He decorates his home mailbox with the Michigan logo, too.
No. 5: He has become enamored with crab fries.
Joshua Kohn, a congregant at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood, Pa., tells the story: “Right after he arrived in Philly, the two of us went to a Phillies-Nationals game. … In case you aren’t familiar with Philly food favorites, Chickie and Pete’s Crab Fries are a staple of Philadelphia sports events. I set my goal for the evening: To convince my new rabbi friend to share an order of crab fries with me. After mild convincing – it’s really just french fries with Old Bay — he agreed, and it changed the course of history in the Israel family. I am proud to say that crab fries are now a staple of all Israel family sports celebrations.”
(Compiled by Jay P. Goldman, editor of the Tikvat Israel Bulletin.)