Speaking at the formal installation of Kesher Israel’s Rabbi Hyim Shafner on June 10, Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University in New York City, noted that a rabbi must have three attributes.
Possessing chochma (wisdom) means that a rabbi should be deeply learned not only in Torah but also “have a deep understanding of broader world,” said Rabbi Berman. Additionally, a rabbi should have anava (humility) and ahava (love) in order to love one’s congregants and develop deep connections with one’s community.
Sunday’s celebration represented an “auspicious pairing between a rabbi and a community,” he said, calling Shafner “a person with astonishing depth and breadth of experience and knowledge.”
Rabbi Shafner joined the Washington, D.C., synagogue last summer, replacing interim rabbi Avidan Milevsky. More than 200 people attended Sunday’s installation and fundraising dinner, which was held at the Whittemore House in Washington and raised more than double the record of previous annual fundraisers, according to a synagogue source. It was a communal event that brought together current members of Kesher Israel, lay leaders, and clergy from many organizations in the Greater Washington area, as well as former members who have moved away but still feel a connection to the Georgetown congregation.
“The measure of a community is not in how it treats those who fit in or those who are easily honored,” said Rabbi Shafner in his remarks, “but, like G-d, how it gathers in the nidachim, those who do not fit in, those who would be anonymous: the person at kiddush who is in the corner and does not know anyone; the person who is a beginner, who does not immediately fit in or feel included among the Jewish people and the Orthodox community.”
Partisan politics are checked at the door at Kesher, according to Rabbi Shafner. He related a conversation he had with a woman from an Israel advocacy organization who remarked that politics can be so divisive in so many congregations.
“I told her my Kesher must be the exception to the rule,” he said. “Perhaps our people are so knowledgeable, so thoughtful that perhaps they understand the other side also. Like in Torah — the more one knows, the less narrow their vision is. Not less committed. Less narrow.”
Shafner also used his remarks to lay out his vision for the synagogue, including deepening and expanding learning and enlarging the physical space.
In her remarks, Kesher President Elanit Jakabovics said, "Working so closely with Rabbi Shafner this past year has helped bring back my faith in the rabbinate.”
“Even if that is all we are fortunate to have gained, dayenu [it would have been enough for us],” she said.
Shafner was presented with a two-volume deluxe edition of the Moss Haggadah on behalf of the congregation. Artist David Moss spent three years on the one-volume handmade original, initially allowing only limited reproductions to be produced “that would be as indistinguishable from the original as human craftsmanship and modern technology could attain,” according to the Bet Alpha Editions publishers.
Rev. Thomas L. Bowen, director of the DC Mayor’s Office of Religious Affairs, also read a letter from Mayor Muriel Bowser congratulating Rabbi Shafner: “You are indeed a vital part of both the future and the history of Kesher Israel. As the synagogue continues to flourish, may your mission to serve as a consensus builder through community engagement help fortify the journey of Judaism for individuals across the city.”
By Kol HaBirah Staff