Rabbi Bruce Alpert

Rabbi Bruce Alpert’s childhood Jewish education took place on the corner of Whalley Avenue and Dayton Street in New Haven.  On the South-East corner of that intersection was M&T Delicatessen where, on Sunday afternoons, Bruce and his father would buy corned beef, pastrami, tongue and herring to eat while the whole family watched the final round of that week’s golf tournament. On the South-West corner was the Crown Supermarket, the kosher grocery store where Bruce’s mother insisted she “loved to shop.” Bruce’s father knew a little Yiddish with which he would sometimes inflect his conversation. His mother would impatiently respond to these Old World outbursts with the admonition to “Talk English, Jew!” to which his father would mockingly rejoin “I love to shop at the Crown!”

Sherman and Arlene Alpert, of blessed memory, would be shocked to see their older son ordained a rabbi. But no doubt they would be shocked, too, by computers, cell phones and major league baseball in November. Bruce’s brother Jacob is the one person who has never remarked on how surprised their parents would be by Bruce’s career choice. Perhaps he knows better than anyone what they truly valued.

If Bruce’s upbringing was more gastronomic than religious, his Judaism nonetheless left strong marks on his identity. Having a yiddisher kop was not a compliment but an expectation. Being Jewish meant standing apart from, and at times, outside of, convention and the crowd. It meant having an eye for the ironic, an ear for the humorous and a heart for those in need. When the absolutes of adolescence gave way to the subtleties and mysteries that confront adulthood, Bruce found himself drawn ever deeper into Torah. Surprising as that move might have seemed at the time, in hindsight it appears both natural and inevitable.

The members of Temple Beth Tikvah in Madison, Connecticut were the first to implant in him the idea of the rabbinate. His rabbi and friend Dr. Howard Sommer has been a model of all that makes this a noble and inspiring calling. And the members of Beth Israel Synagogue in Wallingford, Connecticut greeted his student ministrations with patience, generosity, kindness and affection.

On a personal level, brother Jay has been his ground – not just to his past, but to the real life connections that sometimes get lost in the heady air of Talmud Torah. His father-in-law and mother-in-law, Gordon and Marge Cohen, have been second parents to him – even worrying that he may, at times, be swimming too close to the deep end for his own safety.

Of Bruce’s two daughters – Sarah and Rachel – one has embraced her father’s eccentricities while the other looks upon them with patient fortitude. And then there is Terri, Bruce’s wife of 25 years and constant companion since 9th grade English class. More than anyone, these three have provided the love and support that has brought him to this day – and, with God’s blessing, will carry him through his rabbinate. And if none of them will watch the final round of that week’s golf tournament with him, all are willing to eat his pastrami.