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So a rabbi and a minister walk in to the bar … and begin discussing their legal careers. Two local Philadelphia clergymen can dish out spiritual as well as legal advice — both were lawyers before deciding to become seminarians. One, Chiam Galfand, has entirely given up the practice of law to become a rabbi. The other, Robert Eyre of Buchanan Ingersoll, worked out a balance after completing seminary school and continues to practice while pursuing life as a Presbyterian minister. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1989, Galfand spent six years as an associate at Philadelphia’s Mesirov Gelman Jaffe Cramer & Jamieson. “I started practicing law as a completely secular attorney,” Galfand said. “I would say I was an assimilated American Jew.” During his second year at Mesirov Gelman, Paul Jaffe, the firm’s chairman, hosted a meeting of the American Jewish Committee. Attendance was expected to be low, so Jaffe asked Galfand to attend to help fill the room. “I went in, stood there for an hour, had my wine and cheese, and I liked what I heard,” Galfand said. He became involved in starting a young adult division for the group, and this, he said, “sowed the seeds that bore the fruit of my decision to become a rabbi.” “I was thrown into a group of young Jewish professionals, who were all seeking, were all trying to identify, were all trying to figure out what the Jewish part was about,” Galfand said. “I had this whole rich past that I had taken for granted. … I realized how tenuous the connection of the current generation of Jews was to their tradition.” That was when Galfand knew that he wanted to be a Jewish educator, but he was not yet sure if he wanted to get a master’s degree or go all the way and become a rabbi. He discussed the issue at length with his dad, who later died. It was during the mourning process that Galfand learned he wanted to take the bigger step and become a rabbi. Before he found out that he got into seminary school, he and his wife decided to sell their house to finance either his education if he was accepted or his pursuit of becoming an educator if he did not. The sale proved to be a good omen, as Galfand was accepted into the Jewish Theological Seminary for a six-year program. While in school, Galfand was selected by the Wexner Foundation to receive funding that would allow him and his family to relocate to various cities during his time at school. Galfand attended school in Los Angeles, Jerusalem and New York. After graduating in May, Galfand began working at a new Conservative school, Perelman Jewish Day School, which opened its doors in September. Galfand serves as the rabbi for middle school students and teaches rabbinic texts. He said that he has no regrets about leaving the practice of law. “I’m extraordinarily fulfilled right now,” Galfand said. “There now seems to be such a merger between personal and professional life, not in the sense of one being an intrusion on the other, but in terms of there being a synergy where the real essence of both my professional and personal life are now in sync.” CHURCH AND STATE Buchanan Ingersoll’s Robert Eyre, currently a candidate for Ministry of Word and Sacrament under the Philadelphia Presbytery, has already been ordained as an elder and a deacon. Eyre said the idea of becoming a minister in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. lingered in the back of his mind for most of his life. But making the actual decision was more recent. Active in the Presbyterian church for most of his life, Eyre decided to go to seminary after 12 years of practicing law. Eyre grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs. After graduating from high school, he went to Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., and secured a degree in public affairs in 1981 before heading directly to Temple University School of Law. Eyre received his J.D. in 1984 and practiced first at a small New Jersey firm doing labor relations and civil rights work. A few years later, he moved across the river to Mesirov Gelman, where he was a commercial litigator, and eventually began working with the firm’s bankruptcy and creditors’ rights group. In 1991, Eyre lateraled to Pittsburgh-based Buchanan Ingersoll. In 1995, when Eyre gave his co-workers at Buchanan three months’ notice that he was leaving the firm to go to the Princeton Theological Seminary, he said that few were surprised but all were supportive. “Some people said that they always sensed that there was something like this in me,” Eyre said. “It opened my eyes up to the wonderful things that can happen in office conversations when people open up parts of themselves. I learned about people who had minister fathers, or rabbis. It just opened up a whole conversation that hadn’t been there before.” Eyre said that his teachers, friends, family and pastors were all important influences on his decision to go to seminary, but he also narrowed his recognition that he was being called to be a minister down to one summer while he was in law school. He showed up at Grace Presbyterian Church in Jenkintown, Pa., something that he was not in the habit of doing at that point in his life, during the summer between his second and third year of law school. One Sunday, the pastor pulled him aside and asked Eyre what he wanted to do with his summer. Like most law students, Eyre said that he wanted to get a clerkship. The pastor suggested that Eyre instead spend his time at a mission in rural Maine. The minister that ran the mission had a daughter who headed a legal services firm in the area, and Eyre was able to spend his summer dividing his time between the mission and the legal clinic after a member of Grace Presbyterian put up money to finance his trip. “I don’t know if the experience changed anything or just firmed something up that was already there,” Eyre said. After three years of seminary school, Eyre was presented with a golden opportunity — the chance to return to Buchanan part time, giving him financial stability as well as time to pursue his ministry. Eyre now divides his time between the two. The ministry, he said, is unique because it focuses on community development centered on neighborhood organizing. The ministry is based in Chester, Pa., and provides, among other things, computer training to members of the community. The ministry has also formed The Neighborhood Organization, a collaboration of Chester’s tenant association and public housing tenant group. In an average week, Eyre said, he devotes between 30 and 40 hours to the practice of law and 10 to 25 hours to the ministry. “Working out the balance is a challenge, and I wouldn’t necessarily say that I mastered that at this point,” Eyre said. “I work hard to strike a balance and reconcile conflicts. … If it was all too easy I would be worried that I was shying away from the challenges God was calling me to confront.”

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