A Man of Many Talents
Rabbi Reuven Boshnack Focuses on Helping Others
Rabbi Reuven Boshnack wears many hats. Rabbi, psychologist, college professor, author, father and husband are some of his official titles. His unofficial ones include spiritual mentor, gifted Torah educator, guitarist, chicken cutlet chef and tour guide. “Really though,” he says, about his current position as an educator for the Orthodox Union’s JLIC (Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus) at Brooklyn College, “My wife, Shira, and I see ourselves as being uniquely privileged to service one of the most dynamic and diverse communities anywhere.”
On any given Shabbat (Friday and Saturday), there is usually a group of students camped out in their Brooklyn home. Together, he and his wife plan Friday night socials, retreats, trips and discuss Torah teachings and lend an ear to the thoughts and concerns of the 150 to 200 students who frequent the OU-JLIC programs. Their kitchen is busy as they prepare food for their own children — Levi, Gitty, Shimi and Chumi — and any students who have turned up. “We hope that these young men and women find an ideological and emotional home here,” says Rabbi Boshnack. “Our goal is to help them see that it is possible to have a Jewish identity that is compatible with being a professional in the secular world.”
Also an accomplished author, the Rabbi has published writings and translations on religious and spiritual topics. In his role as a religious leader, he combines teaching of Jewish thought with spiritual counseling. “I meet with students one-on-one to review Jewish texts as well as to talk about anything relevant to their lives, including relationships, school/life balance, religious observance and family,” he explains.
But this is only part of Boshnack’s busy week. He also teaches courses in Judaic studies at Touro’s Lander College for Women – The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School, and Psychology and Counseling at his alma mater, the Dept. of Psychology at the School of Health Sciences, where he earned a MS in Mental Health Counseling and has kept strong ties. He also runs a thriving psychotherapy practice.
Born and raised in the New York area, Boshnack studied psychology as an undergraduate and later became ordained as a rabbi. He and his wife, also from the New York area, then relocated to Florida for several years where they served as educators in various schools in Boca Raton. When an opportunity at Brooklyn College arose, they moved back to New York. Once settled, pursuing an advanced degree in psychology seemed like the natural progression for the Rabbi’s work. “My focus is always on helping others and in finding additional ways to achieve this,” he explains.
Much of this rabbi’s day is dedicated to helping others. “I see my work with students and others seeking my counsel as a rabbi who is psychologically informed.” For his work with patients, many of whom seek him out because of his religious background, it is reversed. “With my patients, I try to act as a rabbinically informed psychologist,” he explains. “I walk a very fine line between both and find that there are places where the points intersect.” Ultimately, Rabbi Boshnack’s message is optimistic. “I believe firmly in the wellsprings of strength and resilience within each person. I see my work as a counselor or psychotherapist as a means to access those strengths.”
This article appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of Touro Links