‘From Capitol Hill to Elmora Hills’ is one good way to describe Rabbi Michael Bleicher’s journey to the rabbinate. The onetime U.S. Senate staffer is undertaking an entirely different role now, as the exciting and dynamic new leader of the Elizabeth community’s Elmora Hills Minyan, located on the border between Union Township and the city of Elizabeth in Union County.
The Bleicher family – Rabbi Michael and Rebbetzin Yael Bleicher, and their daughters, Meira, 3, and Tamar, 1 – were warmly welcomed to shul on their first weekend with the congregation, August 29-30, 2014 (Shabbos Parshat Shoftim). “We look forward to the Rabbi and Rebbetzin inspiring growth within us as individuals, within our shul, and within our community,” said Elmora Hills Minyan President Shlomo Lieberman. “I believe the Bleichers’ unique energy will help make the Elizabeth community a brighter spot on the tri-state area’s Jewish map.”
Rabbi Bleicher is a proud alumnus of the Jewish Educational Center’s Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy (RTMA), and glad to be back in Elizabeth. “It’s so exciting to bring my daughter Meira through the very same hallways I used to walk through myself, as I developed into a ben Torah (Torah scholar) during my formative high school years at RTMA,” he said. “It was the JEC community that fostered and encouraged my pursuit of a life dedicated to rigorous Torah study, while also supporting my interest in politics and improving the state of the broader Jewish community. The warm welcome we’ve received has only heightened our optimism for how much more we can achieve as a community.”
Rabbi and Rebbetzin Bleicher purchased a home down the block from their new congregation and moved in over the summer. Before his election as rabbi of the Elmora Hills Minyan, Rabbi Bleicher served for several years as a beloved assistant rabbi at Congregation Ahawas Achim Bnei Jacob & David in West Orange, NJ. Prior to that, he was rabbinic intern at the Great Neck Synagogue for two years.
Rabbi Bleicher received a Masters in Social Work (MSW) from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University earlier this year. He recently accepted a position with Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Passaic- Clifton, where he will offer psychotherapy for individuals, couples and families. Additionally, he will serve as the outreach coordinator for Project S.A.R.A.H, the organization’s program dedicated to providing services to victims of domestic violence, abuse and stalking in the Jewish community, while also offering prevention programs for camps, rabbis, schools, synagogues and the general public.
Rabbi Bleicher’s inclination toward public service, which began as a 10th grader at RTMA, first led him to care for some of the world’s most vulnerable individuals. While a student at Queens College – where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, earned magna cum laude honors and graduated with a degree in political science – he worked for the Orthodox Union’s Yachad-National Jewish Council for Disabilities, coordinating large weekend retreats and the organization’s first Birthright Israel trip for individuals with disabilities, in addition to serving as an Ohel-Bais Ezra respite counselor for a 14-year-old boy with autism. With his selection by OU Advocacy (formerly the Institute for Public Affairs) as its inaugural Legislative Fellow in Washington, D.C., young Michael Bleicher segued into the world of politics. He went on to work as an aide to a prominent US senator and for the US Senate Republican Conference, as well as on the presidential campaign of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Over time, a decision to more narrowly focus his community service on a single community led to ordination from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). During that time, the future Rabbi Bleicher (pronounced bly’shur), a Staten Island native, first met Yael Butler, a Stern College for Women graduate from Queens, and they married. Yael Bleicher now holds a Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University and serves as a pediatric dietician at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. She anticipates playing an active role in the Elizabeth community.
“I am excited to start this next chapter in our lives at the Elmora Hills Minyan,” Rebbetzin Bleicher said. “I look forward to exploring new opportunities with the community as we work together to create more enriching, inspiring and fun programming for the whole family.”
A barbecue reception to welcome the Bleichers to the community will be held on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 7. It is free of charge. For more information and to RSVP, email email@example.com or call Steve Schnipper at (908) 351-4380.