Temple Beth-El of Great Neck will host an extraordinary Erev Shabbat Installation Service and 50th Birthday Celebration for Rabbi A. Brian Stoller on Friday, Dec. 1.
All are welcome to attend the celebratory dinner from 6 to 7:45 p.m., the Installation Service at 8 p.m. and the Communal Oneg reception that follows.
The special guest speaker will be Dr. Andrew Rehfeld, president of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, and the program will feature the Jewish folk-rock band Soul Zimra from Chicago. The evening will be incredibly special, and Rabbi Stoller is eagerly anticipating the celebration.
“I have been part of the Temple Beth-El community for a year and a half now, and I already feel very deeply connected to our members and feel like I’m part of a warm, caring, loving family,” asserted Stoller. “The installation is a chance for us to celebrate the beautiful bond we have already created and the exciting future that is ahead for our congregation.”
Since his arrival last summer, Temple Beth-El has felt like home.
“Temple Beth-El is the ideal community for me. I feel that I connect very naturally and easily with our congregants, and the community really appreciates me for the kind of rabbi I am,” said TBE’s spiritual leader. “It feels great when you know you’re a perfect fit, and that is how I feel about TBE. I love praying and studying with our community. I love collaborating with our outstanding professional team and lay leaders to create the life of this community and vision for its future. I feel very much at home at TBE, like I’m part of a family—and who better to celebrate my 50th birthday with than my wonderful friends and family at TBE?”
The evening’s guest speaker, Dr. Rehfeld, has become Rabbi Stoller’s friend in recent years as the rabbi has pursued graduate studies at HUC and has been involved in its community.
“President Rehfeld is a strong and courageous leader,” declared Stoller. “I admire how he is leading the college through these very challenging times as the landscape of American Jewish life is changing quickly and dramatically. He has had to make some very difficult decisions as president, and I appreciate the way he has done so with thoughtful analysis, careful consideration of many different perspectives and a deep commitment to the future of HUC and American Reform Judaism. I am proud to call him a friend and to teach on his faculty.”
Rehfeld concurred, “Brian and I got to know each other soon after I began my role at HUC in 2019, during COVID, when he invited me to give a talk at his prior congregation in Omaha—on Zoom. He has a strong reputation as a teacher at the college, and I am looking forward to being with him again in December.”
The HUC president will discuss Reform Judaism and the Kodak Instamatic: What Do We Do When the Ecosystem That Sustained Us Begins to Transform?
Stoller said he feels Rehfeld is the perfect Jewish leader to address the congregation at this moment in time because he is leading HUC through challenges that are very similar to those TBE faces today.
“As the demographics of the community around us continue to shift and as the younger generations continue to search for a modern Judaism that speaks to their 21st-century needs, Jewish institutions like HUC and TBE need to be dynamic, flexible and creative,” Stoller explained. “President Rehfeld understands this well, and he is leading the way toward a new and exciting vision for American Reform Judaism. We at TBE have a lot to learn from his wisdom and bold decision-making, and I believe he can help us imagine a future for our congregation that both honors our past and secures our future.”
Rehfeld continued, “The Jewish world in North America is going through a massive transformation right now. If we look at what used to be, that is a story of decline. But if we ask what our purpose is, we can see a future arising that is dynamic and vibrant, even though it looks much different than what came before. I understand that Temple Beth-El is facing a similar moment—and that may be strengthened by recognizing that what comes next may look very different than the past.”
Throughout the years, TBE has maintained a significant relationship with HUC as its longtime rabbi Jerome K. Davidson continues to be involved with HUC’s faculty, and he is a beloved teacher and colleague to Rehfeld.
“HUC raises up religious and secular leadership to study, create, experience and apply Jewish wisdom to our most pressing moral, spiritual and communal problems today,” conveyed the HUC president. “Temple Beth-El, now under the leadership of Rabbi Brian Stoller, has a long and important history in our movement of doing that well. I am looking forward to coming to see the results of our work in action. Temple Beth-El is an important, long-standing congregation that has represented the very best of what we hope our students will go on to do—and apply Jewish wisdom for the sake of our world.”
Stoller also has a strong connection to Jewish folk-rock band Soul Zimra, which will perform at the event.
“Andy, Marcus and Gary are good friends of mine, and as associate rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, Illinois, I helped inspire them to form Soul Zimra,” expressed Stoller. “During my time there, we collaborated on key projects, including starting a musical evening minyan, leading a spiritual and social action mission to help the Reform congregation in Joplin, M0., after a major tornado in 2011, and developing an integrated style of music and text study for Shabbat. In fact, on Saturday morning December 2, Soul Zimra will join me and our clergy team in leading an integrated musical Torah study and Shabbat morning service. I am very excited for our congregants to experience the deep spirituality and passion of Soul Zimra!”
TBE’s spiritual leader is enthusiastically looking forward to this event.
“I am very excited to celebrate with my TBE family, my good friends in Soul Zimra, my parents and some of my dearest friends from my past congregations in Chicago and Omaha who are planning to come,” the rabbi concluded. “It’s going to be a Shabbat filled with music, learning, spirituality and inspiration!”
Join the celebration by registering for the dinner at https://bit.ly/TBEinstallation.
Founded in 1928, the peninsula’s first synagogue is located at 5 Old Mill Road in Great Neck. To learn more, call 516-487-0900, visit www.tbegreatneck.org or email [email protected].