Photo: Courtesy of Essex County
By: Danielle Incognito
Rabbi Clifford Kulwin, who currently occupies the pulpit of The Livingston Temple, B’nai Abraham since 1999, recently received the Star of Essex award during the Essex County Jewish Heritage celebration in Newark on Wednesday, May 29th. The event celebrated the positive impact Jewish community leaders have in Essex County. There, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. presented Star of Essex Awards to Marsha Atkind, CEO/Executive Director for The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey and the Rabbi.
Raised in Champaign, Illinois, Rabbi Kulwin graduated from Macalester College. Later, he was ordained and received his master’s degree from the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion after studies there and in Jerusalem and was a Doctoral Fellow in Jewish History at Columbia University. Once serving as a rabbi in Rio de Janeiro, he held close ties with the Brazilian-Jewish community there. He is also fluent in Portuguese, and he speak Spanish, Hebrew, and French. This multi-language speaking ability has helped his 15 years in the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
Rabbi Kulwin will have served his congregation for twenty years at the end of June. He remarked, “I have been privileged to work on behalf of a cause that matters to me and that is integral to who I am, and to work with a community of people who could not have been nicer, warmer, or more fun to be a part of.” He is very well respected in the Jewish community, and his opinions have even been published in The Star Ledger and New Jersey Jewish News.
Serving the Jewish community has helped him. Besides helping to support his family, the job has help him on a personal level. He said, “If I had to choose, I guess it “helped” me especially in one key way: First, it gave me the privilege of working on behalf of causes in which I deeply believe, namely, the practice of Judaism and the promotion of Jewish life and the Jewish people.”
He has also traveled to Israel with many young people, adults, and even families over his career. More importantly, Rabbi Kulwin knew the importance of the trip for the people who were seeing Israel for the first time or seeing it for the first time in a long while. He said, “Because of my belief that a connection to Israel is an integral part of being Jewish, it was a priority for me to help people create or enhance their own relationship with Israel.” He promoted summer studies there, where he even included his own children. His volunteers had even aided during the missile siege from Gaza.
Rabbi Kulwin feels that his new honor is a “lovely one”, and he knows that he has been privileged and honored to do his job, especially as he nears retirement. He remarked, “I have had the privilege of being involved in many causes beyond our congregation and the Jewish community and have been active in the county in many different ways.” The Essex community was always special to him, and he always considered it his home.