Nearly six years to the day after her first visit to Shir Tikvah and three years to the day after the coronavirus wreaked havoc, Rabbi Arielle Lekach-Rosenberg was officially elevated to the role of the Minneapolis Reform congregation’s lead rabbi. The congregational vote on her new role took place on March 12.
“It’s a sense of grounding and a sense of really being able to say we’re building something together,” Lekach-Rosenberg said. “I’ve already been working in such deep partnership with our leadership team and staff and board, but I think it’s just like my ability to show up and say, ‘Let’s imagine and work together over the years.’ That feels like it’s the real blessing of this change.”
Lekach-Rosenberg took the role after Rabbi Michael Latz resigned from the synagogue in January 2022. She never had the title of “interim lead rabbi” because she was the congregation’s only rabbi at that point.
“It’s a really sensitive question, but I think that what I’ve learned is that I lead from a place of relationship, a place of really wanting to be attentive to what are the needs of the people that I’m serving,” she said. “And that I orient towards hope, towards a sense of what is our common purpose? And what are we accountable to?
“Through this time of transition and finding our way, and learning how to be a rabbi in this moment, like in the pandemic, have been such complicated years. I’ve really wanted to stay focused on this: ‘what are we serving as a community, who do I serve, and how do I serve?’”
Shir Tikvah Co-President Ben Goldfarb said a significant number of the roughly 600 member households participated in the process, between the March 12 meeting and the survey that went to members.
“The upside is it offers a really amazing opportunity for a significant number of people to engage in the process and have a direct role,’ he said. “It was [the members’] process not someone else’s.
Lekach-Rosenberg has been through abrupt transitions before. In her first year as a rabbinic intern in Traverse City, Mich., she helped support the merger of two congregations.
“I’ve had this feeling in my rabbinate that was like ‘I didn’t expect it,’” she said. “It wasn’t on my bingo card of what it means to be a rabbi. But let’s go — like — let’s learn together and try to bring that into my work.”
Latz took leave from his position in December 2021 before stepping down six weeks later. Lekach-Rosenberg did not comment on his departure.
“For me, it’s so important that this shift in my title and also this moment for our community is one of real celebration,” she said. “This is a moment of transition that is joyful and it’s powerful, and feels really empowering. And I think that I have learned a lot around grounding in my own values, in the values of this community around collaboration and transparency and trust.”
Goldfarb pointed to Lekach-Rosenberg’s connection to the community, whether through pastoral care or spiritual leadership on the bimah, among the reasons she’s the right choice to be the lead rabbi.
“My point of view is shared by an overwhelming number of our congregants, that she’s contributed significantly to our community,” he said. “She has a very uncommon combination of intellect and heart. And especially in the last 18 months, really stepped into a leadership role with skill. She’s ready.”
Lekach-Rosenberg mentioned the ability to go through hard and “scary” times together, like the pandemic or the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in 2018.
“[Can we] continue to really invite each other into really focusing on what matters to us: How are we good neighbors? How are we still learning and deepening our Jewish practice?” she said. “Those are the questions that animate me as a rabbi. As I think about this moment in my life, it’s so much about the big picture rabbinate and the big picture Shir Tikvah, and what does the chapter mean for the community.”