Kemp Mill Synagogue, opened in 1990, has only known one rabbi. But come this summer, Rabbi Jack Bieler will step down from the Modern Orthodox synagogue he helped to develop.
After “an exhaustive search,” Rabbi Brahm Weinberg, spiritual leader at Young Israel of West Hartford, Conn., for the past six years, was chosen as the congregation’s new rabbi, said Saul Newman, first vice president and co-chair of the rabbinic search committee. Weinberg, 32, will begin at KMS at the end of the summer.
Replacing a long-term, beloved rabbi is a great opportunity, Weinberg said. The fact that Bieler has been there for 25 years “shows a great strength and testament to the community. He has created such an amazing foundation.”
Weinberg was drawn to KMS and its “unique qualities,” he said, pointing to the strength of its lay leaders and their “great commitment, great energy.” He particularly was impressed with KMS’ “real
desire to grow while maintaining the
But what stood out for Weinberg are the synagogue’s youth programs. They “empower the youth,” let them lead their own services” and their own paths, he said.
While he will miss the 80 families he has come to know well, Weinberg said he now wants to move to a larger congregation in a bigger town. Being near Washington creates a “unique subset of people,” he said. KMS is the spiritual home to members of presidential administrations, think tanks and Jewish non-profits.
The synagogue has some 340 member units and often has more than 700 people at a Shabbat morning, where there are four minyanim, including one for teens.
Weinberg was selected after 30-minute Internet chats with more than a dozen candidates. Seven of them were invited to one-day interviews and three advanced to Shabbat visits.
He was the “clear choice” of both founding members and the younger generation with children, Newman said. “Rabbi Weinberg is incredibly warm and has wonderful pastoral and leadership skills,” he said.
Weinberg has been referred to as “a natural born rabbi” by “some of the country’s leading Modern Orthodox rabbis, Newman said.
He is married. He and his wife, Elana, have a son, age 3, and a 10-month-old daughter.
He grew up in Montreal, and has worked in New York and Connecticut, where he participated in programs geared at both the young and those with a limited Jewish background.
Excited to both teach and learn from his new congregants, Weinberg said he hopes to bring to KMS “a great devotion and passion for what I am doing, what I am teaching.” He also wants to be there for his new congregational family, interacting with them through their good and the bad times, he said.