Born in Tetuan, Morocco, Rabbi Solomon B. Acrish is the eldest of six children of the late Benito and Estrella Acrish. Life for the family in Morocco was difficult and challenging. His father worked in a wholesale grocery warehouse, and the family lived in a one-room home in a Jewish ghetto. Jews were discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens.
Our Rabbi's journey from Morocco to Brewster was not easy. His yearning for a new and different life required the courage to make difficult choices and overcome obstacles at an early age. Having grown up in an orthodox community, religion was a very important part of his life. He met a Rabbi whom he admired very much and wanted to follow in his footsteps. "I wanted to become a teacher, and a Rabbi is a teacher." At age 15 his hopes of becoming a Rabbi were answered. The Anglo-Jewish Association awarded him a scholarship to study in London. This meant leaving the comfort of family and learning a new language - English!
The decision to pursue studies in London proved rewarding. He enjoyed the newfound freedoms and comfort that England had to offer. Upon completion of his studies he accepted an assignment to lead his first congregation in a sephardic community in Montgomery, Alabama. "My services were needed more in America than they were in England. America had very few Sephardic Rabbis. I remained there for five years."
At this point Rabbi Acrish's life journey took a new turn: he decided to go back to school to become a Reform Rabbi and completed his studies in New York City. He became an Assistant Rabbi in Newburgh, New York.
Rabbi Acrish's relationship with Temple Beth Elohim began in 1966 when he was hired as a part-time Rabbi. Temple Beth Elohim, with a membership then of 25 families, has grown to 264 families with 213 children in the religious school.
In addition to his rabbinical duties, Rabbi Acrish worked for the Brewster Central School District as a language teacher, making use of his fluency in seven languages, and then as a School Psychologist. The combination of his own interest in this field of study and the wishes of his late son Kevin motivated him to obtain a doctorate degree in Psychology from the Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Rabbi Acrish lives in Patterson, NY with his wife Terri and they take great delight in their son Brian and his two sons, Maximilian and Harrison and daughter, Lily - the lights of the Rabbi's life. When not working or playing with his grandchildren, Rabbi Acrish likes to read, exercise, and play the violin.
Rabbi Acrish's words summarize what Temple Beth Elohim and he are all about: "We are a very welcoming, down to earth, caring community. We love our children. Our mission is tikkun olam, to heal the world. If you are looking for a spiritual home and a religious family, we are the place."
Our Interview With
Hilary C. and Samantha M., who were young students in our Religious School at the time of the interview, asked Rabbi Acrish some basic questions. Here are their questions and Rabbi's answers.
Q. Where were you born and when?
Q. How many brothers and sisters do you have?
Q. Where did you go to school?
Q. Did you like going to school?
Q. Were any of your teachers strict?
Q. How many years did you attend college?
Q. Did you have a Bar Mitzvah?
Q. How were Bar/Bat Mitzvahs different in Morocco from Bar/Bat Mitzvahs in America today?
Q. As you grew up, did you always want to be a Rabbi?
Q. What were your feelings about moving to America?
Q. What is your favorite color and why?
Q. What was it like when you visited Israel?
Q. What languages do you speak?
Q. What languages do you think in?
Q. Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
Q. What do you like to do in your free time?
Q. What kind of books do you like to read?
Q. Why did you want to be a Rabbi?
Q. What are the responsibilities of a Rabbi?
Q. What do you like and dislike about being a Rabbi?
Q. What is the most difficult thing about being a Rabbi?
We have concluded that Rabbi Acrish is a very important part of our temple community. We hope he continues to be with us because we know our temple would not be the same without him.
To contact Rabbi Acrish, please phone: (845) 279-4585 or send an e-mail.