This article was first published in The Times of Israel.
Harry Berkowitz is a rabbi on the move. It could be no other way for the head chaplain for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the largest transportation network in North America.
Berkowitz developed and oversees a program that ministers to upwards of 65,000 MTA employees working an over 5,000-square-mile area fanning out from New York City through Long Island, southeastern New York State and Connecticut. It’s not the job the Orthodox rabbi originally set out to do, but from his first subway ride-along with transit police in 1978, he knew he had found his true calling.
Three and a half decades later, Berkowitz, 67, is still chugging away, but no longer going it alone. Having steadily built up the MTA’s chaplaincy, he is now assisted by a team of 100 volunteer clergy of every religion and cultural background. They’re on call 24/7 to support the MTA family in coping with everything from run-of-the-mill personal and employment issues, to fatal train incidents (nearly 100 people died along the MTA’s 2,047 miles of tracks in 2013), to unfathomable national tragedies like 9/11.
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© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.