Community Voices

Woman promoted to new senior rabbi at Miami Beach synagogue

Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz presides over a 2016 celebration of Rosh Hashanah at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach.
Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz presides over a 2016 celebration of Rosh Hashanah at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach. Miami Herald File

For two years, the rabbinic search committee at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach looked nationally to find the right person to be the new senior rabbi at the 75-year-old synagogue. To no one’s surprise, the new senior rabbi is actually a rabbi who has served at Temple Beth Sholom since 1994 — Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz. Her new duties will begin on June 1.

Gayle Pomerantz
Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz of Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Pomerantz will be the first female rabbi in the history of the synagogue. She succeeds Rabbi Gary Glickstein, who has served as senior rabbi since 1985.

“Her guidance has opened paths for sacred living by integrating women’s spirituality and leadership, initiating social justice projects and creating an original High Holy Days experience with Cantor Lisa Segal,” Beth Sholom President Karen Rivo said. “She has brought enthusiasm, joy, compassion and creativity to this congregation and serves with a full heart.”

Rivo said that “with the selection of Rabbi Pomerantz, we have the unique opportunity to draw upon the strengths of our community and honor our history and traditions while launching a new vision for our future.”

“Rabbi Pomerantz is a nationally respected and revered rabbi,” Rivo said. “She loves our congregation and has been an integral leader in working with our beloved Rabbi Glickstein and our clergy team for over 23 years, helping to shape Temple Beth Sholom. She will strengthen our community through inspired worship, personal warmth, activism and meaningful relationships.”

Pomerantz was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1989. In 1998, she became the first female president of the Rabbinic Association of Greater Miami, and has been a recipient of the Jewish Museum of Florida’s “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” award. She also has been honored by the city of Miami Beach as “a Woman to Know,” and has been named “A Woman of Valor” by the National Council of Jewish Women.

Bea Hines.JPG
Bea L. Hines

Pomerantz hit the ground running in 1994 when she joined the clergy at Temple Beth Sholom, where, according to a news release, she is committed to “nourishing Jewish souls through learning acts of tikkun olam (acts to improve the world) and innovative spiritual engagement.”

In 2006, Pomerantz launched an engagement initiative to make Judaism accessible to Jews outside the synagogue. The program, called “The Open Tent,” has touched thousands of Jewish lives through childbirth classes and arts programs; Yaroq, an organic food collective; and The Tribe, a young adults group.

In May 2014, Pomerantz was awarded a doctor of divinity degree from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, marking her 25 years in the rabbinate. She currently serves on the clergy advisory boards of Hazon, Big Tent Judaism and the URJ Camp Coleman.

Pomerantz is married to Adam Snitzer. They are the parents of three children.

Book presentation

The Ahavat Olam Synagogue, which meets at 10755 SW 112th St., will host a book presentation at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 9 featuring Sana Krasikov, author of the novel “The Patriots.”

Born in the Ukraine, Krasikov grew up in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and the United States. She is a graduate of Cornell University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the recipient of an O. Henry Award, and the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. Krasikov’s stories have appeared in The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly magazines.

Her novel is a tale about idealism, betrayal, and family secrets set in the U. S. and Russia during the Cold War years.

Admission is $10 per person. A dessert reception will follow the presentation.

Watch Night services

When I was a child, we looked forward to the annual New Year’s Eve Watch Night service. Parents gathered early, children in tow, to get the best seats in the sanctuary.

There would be singing and praying and at intervals during the last hour of the year, the “watchman” would call out the number of minutes left in the old year. Someone would “raise’ a hand-clapping gospel song and we’d sing and pray until the old year waned away. It was a custom to be praying when the new year came in.

And always, someone would run inside the church just before midnight, to be there when the new year arrived. The tradition of Watch Night services is almost a thing of the past now.

However, there are still some churches in the community where the tradition is yet alive.

For example, the congregations of St. John Institutional Missionary Baptist Church in Overtown, and Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City, will come together for an old-fashioned New Year’s Eve Watch Night Service, starting at 10 p.m. Sunday at Friendship, 740 NW 58th St.

The Rev. Gaston Smith is senior pastor at Friendship, and Bishop James D. Adams is senior pastor at St. John. The order of service will include music from the two choirs and preaching.

At Jesus People Ministries International, 4055 NW 183rd St. in Miami Gardens, the Watch Night service starts at 11 p.m. with prayer and praise, but doors of the church open at 10 p.m. Everyone is welcome to both services.

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