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Photo caption: Uri Barnea [credit Uri Barnea]

Uri BarneaFormer Billings icon Uri Barnea to teach at RMC

BILLINGS, April 28, 2014 – Rabbi Uri Barnea will teach an Introduction to Judaism course in the RMC Philosophy and Religious Thought program in 2014. He said, “it is sort of historic for a college that is … church-related to hire a rabbi [to] offer a course on Judaism for the first time in Rocky's history.” 

Barnea grew up among the first generations of sabras, native-born Israeli Jews. A son of Holocaust refugees and a naturalized American citizen, he is a recently retired rabbi of a Reform congregation. He has been a lifelong violinist, singer, composer, and conductor and holds a doctorate from the University of Minnesota. In 1999, he also received an honorary doctorate from RMC. 

From 1984 to 2004, as the first full-time music director and conductor of the Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale, Barnea helped cultural and intellectual perspectives to prosper in Billings. From 1993 to 2004, he also served as music director of the Montana Ballet Company, based in Bozeman. Among his accolades are the first composition prize from the 1976 Aspen Music Festival for his string quartet, a 1995 honorary citation from the Montana Human Rights Network, and the 2003 Montana Governor’s Arts Award in music.

To become a religious teacher and interpreter of rabbinical study, Barnea worked far from Montana the last 10 years. Thanks to his prior coursework at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in 2007 he was ordained in a record time of three years at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio – one of America’s great reform Jewish rabbinical colleges – where he served as a teaching assistant. He interned as a student-rabbi in Tennessee, Manitoba (Canada), and Illinois. In 2014, he retired after seven years as a full-time congregational rabbi in Hattiesburg, Miss.

This fall, Barnea will also continue as cantor for the High Holy Days at a large congregation in a Kansas City suburb. He wrote, “I may also re-open my violin studio, and I want to study Arabic or Russian, or both, and yet leave … some free time.” 

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