Over a weekend of meals, music and special guests, Congregation Beth Emeth in Herndon installed Rabbi Warner Ferratier as its spiritual leader and energizer-in-chief, a role he has filled since coming aboard last year.
“It was really a full weekend celebrating how excited we are to have him on board,” said Ellyn Hirsch, Beth Emeth’s president and one of the congregation’s founding members.
After a large congregational dinner held on March 24 and attended by approximately 130 people, the Conservative synagogue held an installation service for Ferratier the following day. A large luncheon and an open house at Beth Emeth followed, featuring musical performances. Several members of Ferratier’s family attended, as well as two people he considers his mentors: Cantor Steven Stoehr from Northbrook, Ill., and Cantor Sarah Levine from Weston, Fla. Stoehr conducted the installation.
Hirsch described the installation weekend as “fabulous.”
“Having a new rabbi has been great, because it’s been drawing people back,” she added. “He’s a very strong spiritual leader, and people find him easy to talk with … he has a lot of energy and is fun to be around. He’s invigorating.”
Ferratier had actually been working with Beth Emeth since before he was under contract. He helped in the search for a new religious school director and guided the congregation as it tried to increase involvement in a post-pandemic world.
“I have a vision of [Congregation Beth Emeth] being a really energetic, vibrant center for Conservative Judaism in Northern Virginia,” he said of his goals.
Ferratier added that his main focus is seeing more involvement from teenage congregants members of the congregation as well as older congregants. The synagogue’s location, where it services the Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland areas, also puts it into a unique position.
“People are transplants here,” explained Ferratier, “so this isn’t a place where you have fourth- and fifth-generation members of the synagogue. A lot of people are here for work. They don’t have family close by, and the synagogue community has the potential to become that family.”
Ferratier has already helped Beth Emeth plan their inaugural community second seder, taking place on April 6. He has also been teaching in the synagogue’s religious school and working with its Young Jewish Professionals Group.
“One thing that is often hard for people to realize is that living in a predominantly Christian nation, at least culturally, requires work,” said Ferratier. “I am here to help them do that work, and I look forward to being with this congregation for a long time.”
Originally from Illinois, Ferratier had an aunt and uncle who lived in Herndon. His familiarity with the town influenced his decision to come to Virginia and serve as Beth Emeth’s rabbi.
“We had a search team that was really quite excellent,” said Hirsch. “He applied to the job with a lot of other people, but he stood out and shined over everybody. He’s a great fit for us, and we think we’re a great fit for him.” ■