After three years as a rabbi at Temple Solel, Rabbi Emily Langowitz is moving on. And throughout the month of June, in spite of the continued need for social distancing, Temple Solel is finding creative ways to celebrate Langowitz and to say goodbye.
Langowitz joined the clergy team at Temple Solel in July 2017. The fact that it’s been three years “is hard to believe,” she said. “It feels simultaneously like no time has gone by and like we’ve known one another for a long time.”
Rather than seeking placement with another congregation right away, Langowitz is taking what she calls a personal sabbatical: time to read, write, rest and reflect, and to figure out what her next step will be.
“I’m just trying to slow down the process a little bit,” Langowitz said. “It’s so rare that you get the chance to take a step back like this, so I’m feeling grateful for it.”
Temple Solel will always have a special place in Langowitz’s heart, she said, not least of all because of the relationships she built with congregants.
“This is my first three years working professionally as a rabbi, so there’s just so much that you learn and so many relationships that are created, and you’re part of people’s lives in this really special and deep way,” Langowitz said. “I’m going to carry that with me also — just gratitude for the way people were able to open their lives and allow me to be a part of that for this period of time.”
Throughout the month of June, the synagogue arranged a series of events to celebrate Langowitz and to give congregants a chance to say goodbye. On Sunday, June 14, there was a Goodbye Drive-Thru in the Temple Solel parking lot; at services on Friday, June 19, the synagogue celebrated Langowitz with a ‘Goodbye Shabbat’; and on Tuesday, June 23, Temple Solel hosted a virtual happy hour where Langowitz reflected on her favorite memories from the last three years with congregants.
While Langowitz can’t say goodbye to congregants in person, the drive-thru was as close as she could get.
“It was really lovely,” she said. “I had forgotten how nice it was to see people just in physical space, even if they’re in their cars. I’m so used to seeing everyone on Zoom, so that was really nice.”
Her final day at Temple Solel will be June 30. For her final Shabbat with the congregation, on June 26, Langowitz will also perform Havdalah with her family over Zoom.
“It’s very odd to say goodbye during the pandemic,” Langowitz said. “We’re just trying to give as much opportunity to be able to have points of connection with people, so it doesn’t just feel like we disappear. It doesn’t feel as abrupt.”
Many of the most memorable moments of the last three years, for Langowitz, came from working with the kids at Temple Solel’s Raker Religious School.
Langowitz recalled that one preschool student couldn’t pronounce her name, so she called her ‘Rabbi Languages.’ And one of her favorite traditions was the monthly trips to In-N-Out she took with students after religious school, which she initially planned as a trip for frozen yogurt.
“Originally … I was coming from New York and I thought, ‘Everybody loves froyo — who doesn’t want to go get froyo?’” Langowitz said. “We did it once at a froyo place, and the next month, the kids said, ‘Uh, Rabbi, any chance we could go get burgers instead?’ And I’m vegetarian, so I was like, ‘Sure, I guess!’ And from then on, we went to get In-N-Out every month. But we still called it Rabbi-yo.”
Ultimately, she said, no anecdote can do justice to the experience of her time at Solel.
“Just everything. It’s hard to quantify all of it, but some just amazing people,” Langowitz said. “That’s really what I’m thinking about most.”
One thing the rabbi will carry with her, wherever she goes from here, is gratitude.
“I’m very grateful for having been the rabbi of this community for three years, and grateful for every person that I got to meet and every opportunity that I had to help build something with the staff and the clergy team,” Langowitz said. “It’s a bittersweet ending, because I care about everyone very much and also know that I’m doing the right next step for me.” JN