Congregation Beth Emeth in Herndon on Nov. 15-17 celebrated the installation of Rabbi Michelle “Mina” Goldsmith.
Rabbi Cheryl Peretz, the associate dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, performed the installation, delivering a sermon that Goldsmith said moved many attendees to tears.
Following the ceremony and the Havdalah service was a performance by Jewish country music singer Stacy Beyer, a Nashville-based artist who was recently included in Time’s “Rock Hashana: 10 Stars of the New Jewish Music.”
Beyer also held a songwriting workshop for the congregation’s students, both young and old. The entire weekend was filled with music, from Beyer’s performance to a CBE Chorale presentation during the Friday night service.
Goldsmith began her tenure in July, replacing Rabbi Steve Glazer, who was the Beth Emeth rabbi for 18 years. While she’s just getting settled in, Goldsmith, who previously served as rabbi at Temple Beth El in Birmingham, Ala., has already installed new programs and looks to make an impact on existing ones.
“My primary mission is education; education for the children and education for the adults,” she says.
When Goldsmith served as an associate rabbi at congregations in Florida, she says the position allowed her to become deeply involved with religious schools at various congregations. She hopes her position at Beth Emeth allows her to do the same.
“[I’m looking to] enhance the religious school and deepen its relationship with students and the shul itself,” she says. “[I want to] work very closely with the religious school director to make sure that there is real coordination between what’s going on with one end of the building and the rest.”
In terms of classes, Goldsmith praises the learning that has already been occurring in both children and adult programs. She has been teaching a popular Jewish ethics class and says people in the congregation have been teaching their own classes as well.
She has also initiated a child-parent education program for b’nai mitzvah preparation. “It is transformative for the parents to study with the children and talk about what the ceremony means,” she says. “The families are excited.”
Apart from the prospering education programs, Goldsmith is also proud of Beth Emeth’s recognition of the changing structure of American Jewish families. She says the congregation has worked hard to be open to the changing structure, accepting same-sex families, single-parent families and interfaith families, and the synagogue’s membership continues to grow.
Finally, Goldsmith looks to make a social impact on her community and go from there. The Northern Virginia Jewish community seems quiet, but it has a strong powerful voice that can be used to do good, she says. Beth Emeth’s social action program is blossoming, but it is looking to broaden its impact to more than just Northern Virginia, she says.