Arlene Berger to lead first service as Rabbah at Hevrat Shalom Congregation Friday

Hevrat Shalom Congregation (Courtesy of Hevrat Shalom Congregation).

Rabbah Arlene Berger, a Washington-area community rabbi and chaplain, will lead her first monthly service at Hevrat Shalom Congregation in Rockville on Friday.

The service will be the 50-member independent congregation’s second in person since pandemic restrictions started lifting.

Rabbi and congregants are excited about meeting each other. 

“I’m looking forward to seeing people in person,” she said.

Berger will be leading the service with Cantor Joan Wolf, who Berger said led Zoom services with her at Fauquier Jewish Congregation since last fall. 

Now, they will lead the service together in person. 

“We’ve been doing services together for a year, some very intense and some more laid back. And we have met in person once, so we’re both really looking forward to leading a service together,” said Berger.  

Berger taught Torah classes last year at Ingleside at King Farm, the retirement community where Hevrat Shalom is located. There, she got to know some of the residents. The classes were canceled after the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“Many of those people who attended the Torah study sessions are members of Hevrat Shalom and hopefully will be at services,” said Berger. 

Berger has a background in social work and gerontology. Steve Permison, president and co-founder of the 22-year-old congregation, said that and the fact that she is a Reconstructionist rabbi makes her a good fit for the synagogue. 

“I think having clergy from the Reconstructionist movement is wonderful because they embrace teaching, and we love to learn,” he said. “In times such as we have, reinforcing community and building bridges of connection between people and our tradition is what will bring us from our generation to the next generation.” 

Board member Susan Stromberg said she’s looking forward to meeting Berger. 

“I’ve heard only wonderful things about her,” she said. 

Stromberg says the synagogue is a comfortable place for her. 

“It keeps me involved with the Jewish community, which is what I wanted,” she said. 

The congregation meets twice a month with Rabbi Peter Novick leading services every third Friday. Berger will lead services on the first Friday every month. 

Berger said she is looking forward to helping build the Hevrat Shalom community. 

“My goal as a rabbi is to be able to take a group of people in a room who all have different outlooks and differences of opinions, and try to work us into a group that can pray together and can learn together.”

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