After a two year-long search, Temple Beth Sholom of the East Valley has hired a new permanent rabbi. Rabbi Herschel Brodie Aberson will begin working at the congregation on July 15.
Temple Beth Sholom President Bryan Cederbaum said the congregation was excited to have Aberson serve the synagogue.
“He’s got a very outgoing and boisterous personality,” Cederbaum said. “Immediately from the first event he was at, he was able to command the room with lightness and humor. He has a great vision for what he wants to see in our religious school and wants to evolve it past kindergarten through B’nai mitzvah.”
Aberson comes to the East Valley from Los Angeles, where he studied at Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University. He graduated this year and Temple Beth Sholom is his first congregation.
What stood out to Aberson when he applied was the congregation’s diversity. Temple Beth Sholom has a monthly service that’s conducted in Spanish and led by one of the congregants.
“That was the initial kernel that drew my attention,” Aberson said. “When I came out for my interview in March everything clicked.”
The search for a new rabbi began after Rabbi Kenneth R. Leitner, the congregation’s past rabbi, announced his retirement in summer 2017. Leitner made aliyah shortly after the 2017 High Holidays. A rabbinical search committee was formed and during the search process Leitner would return to the temple for the High Holiday sermons.
While the search committee was working, rabbis from other congregations in the Valley came to assist during specific sermons.
During the first year of the search process, the committee held town hall meetings and surveyed the temple’s congregants to see what they were looking for in a new rabbi. The committee compiled the data they received and then worked to find its new permanent rabbi.
Some of the traits Cederbaum said the congregants were looking for included a younger candidate to bring new ideas to the synagogue, someone to oversee the direction of the religious school and someone to be out in the Jewish community.
“It was a pretty big list of traits the congregants had, they basically wanted a 30-year-old with 40 years of experience,” Cederbaum joked.
Cederbaum feels confident that Aberson is the perfect fit for Temple Beth Sholom. Aberson is excited to be starting his career as the temple’s spiritual leader and understands how important his new position is.
“Taking on a new rabbi is a serious investment of energy and resources from a community and I want to make sure I can live up to that,” Aberson said. “I care about these people and I want to be there for them. They’ve been without a pulpit rabbi for two years now and it’s very clear that there’s a desire for that interaction among the congregation.”
“I think there’s going to be an energy around the congregation as he transitions in,” Cederbaum said. “There’s going to be a lot of new stuff happening and he’s going to be driving that. He’s been working with us for the past two months, but he doesn’t start until the middle of July.”
Cederbaum was impressed with the rabbi’s dedication to his new synagogue. Even while preparing for his move to Phoenix, Aberson came in on Wednesday, June 26, just for the night to assist with a bris.
“I’m eager to start and I love this work,” Aberson said. “I didn’t want to not be there for a bris just because my contract doesn’t start for another two weeks. There’s a child that I can say I have been with them from the first lifecycle event. It would have felt sad if the technicalities of it were the reasons I wasn’t there.” JN