From June 14-16, congregants and friends of Rabbi Steve and Andrea Glazer came together for a gala weekend to say goodbye to the couple that had lead the Conservative Congregation Beth Emeth in Herndon since 1995.
Complete with a congregational dinner, a variety of performances and a post-Shabbat gala, the weekend allowed attendees to reminisce about Rabbi Steve’s 18-year stint as rabbi and allowed them to usher the beloved couple into the next step of their lives.
“It was a great weekend that showed how much the congregation really cares about the Glazers,” said Lois Jacobs, who has known the rabbi since he began his career at Beth Emeth. “Everyone who came to the weekend had a story about Rabbi Steve, and they wanted to be there to honor him.”
Featured at the Saturday night event was the donation of $25,000 to the newly created Rabbi Steve and Andrea Glazer Eldercare Assistance Fund, intended to help elderly congregants and their families at Beth Emeth.
“As our rabbi for 18 years, Rabbi Steve saw many wonderful simchas and mitzvot, but he also saw much affliction and loss as well,” said Alan Einhorn, long-time congregant who was in charge of raising the money, $15,000 of which was collected from past presidents of the congregation. “One of the areas that impacted him and Andrea the most was the apparent increase in needs for our aging populations, especially the rise in dementia-related illnesses, the costs associated with these illnesses and the toll it takes on its families. Consistent with the outreach and compassion the Glazers have always shown, we thought it was appropriate to start the Rabbi Steve and Andrea Glazer Eldercare Assistance Fund. We were very pleased to raise $25,000 that can be used for a wide array of support for our senior members and parents of members of Beth Emeth.”
Glazer, whose last day at the congregation was Sunday, explained that his many years of counseling families dealing with end-of-life issues was the basis for the creation of the fund. Additionally, his background in biomedical ethics and Jewish ethics (he teaches the subject at George Washington University) inspired him to create Glazer Consulting, a business that he will run from the couple’s new home in Rockville.
“Stepping down as rabbi from Beth Emeth now was entirely planned in my timetable. I really wanted to go out at the top of my game and not stay too long,” he said. “I’m really excited about the next phase of my life which is not retirement, but doing something quite different and making use of skills and interests that I’ve had throughout my entire career. The consulting practice will allow me to help families grapple with ethical and moral questions they’ll face down the road from a Jewish perspective.”
While congregants like Jacobs, who described the rabbi as “a mensch,” are excited for the Glazers’ new life, they will miss the rabbi who had a tradition of wearing bow ties and is an avid book lover.
“Rabbi Glazer came from a place of ‘yes,’ and at any time an issue came up that wasn’t standard, his first response was ‘let’s see how we can make this work,’ ” said Jacobs. “He was extremely encouraging to people who wanted to grow Jewishly and really saw the possibilities in people, which had a great benefit to the individuals as well as to the congregation.”
“My single greatest accomplishment here [Beth Emeth] in terms of the congregation is that I have operated a partnership and empowerment model,” explained Glazer. “We’ve seen the image and role of rabbi go from an authoritarian figure to what I today would call an empowerer and partner with the laypeople. My role for the last half of my 18 years here has been to be a grand old man and to say ‘yes, very good, let’s try it.’ ”
Serving as the congregation’s new spiritual leader is Rabbi Michelle L. Goldsmith, formerly of Temple Beth El in Birmingham, Ala., the same congregation that Rabbi Steve came from before leading Beth Emeth.
The mother of four and new Herndon resident said that she is most excited about serving a congregation that is so “young and vibrant with a tremendous about of excellent lay leadership and involvement. The level of participation here blows my mind, I feel like I’ve been dropped into heaven and am so excited.”
She described following in the footsteps of Glazer as “really a blessing” and added, “I’m so grateful to have such a friendly, helpful and sweet rabbi emeritus that I know will be there for me should I want or need him.”
“I would hope that she just builds on what’s here and takes it to a higher, different level,” said Glazer of Goldsmith. “When I think about conclusions in Jewish traditions I think about what we say when we finish the Torah, ‘Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,’ may you be strong and strengthen each other.”
Rabbi Steve Glazer and Glazer Consulting can be reached at [email protected]