On Shabbat evening, 6 July the congregants of Temple Israel gathered in our Wynberg synagogue to celebrate the induction of the newest member of our rabbinic team, Rabbi Emma Gottlieb.
Rabbi Emma has been with us since October last year and has made a big and positive impact in our congregation and community as evidenced by the large attendance. We were privileged to have her father, Rabbi Danny Gottlieb, and her stepmother, Ricki Weintraub attend. Rabbi Danny is the rabbi of Beth Israel Judea in San Francisco and Ricki is a cantorial soloist and Jewish educator.
Other dignitaries included Monica Solomon, chair of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism, Stuart Diamond, director of the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies and Julie Berman, the Director of the Cape Council of the South African Zionist Federation.
It was very beautiful and moving to witness Rabbi Danny and Ricki singing to and for Rabbi Emma and watching a father bless and induct his daughter into her new pulpit. Rabbi Danny referred to Rabbi Emma as a pioneer akin to Avraham Avinu (and Sarah Imeinu) who left their home in Mesopotamia and undertook a long journey to the Land of Israel in order to answer God’s call.
Rabbi Emma left North America and came to South Africa, a country she had not been to before, to serve a congregation and community that has until now never been fortunate to have a full-time woman rabbi. Her sense of adventure and passion to teach Progressive Judaism and be a positive role model for the women and girls of our congregation is indeed a divine calling.
The evening started with Rabbi Emma being escorted to the bimah by her rabbinic colleagues, the Executive Director, the President and Vice Presidents of Temple Israel and members of the synagogue Board. A sefer Torah was passed down from the lay leadership, Sisterhood, the executive director, Rabbis Greg and Malcolm, and finally to Rabbi Emma.
After the induction and words from Rabbi Danny and a response from Rabbi Emma, the rabbis and lay leadership left the bimah and joined the congregation in a circle of community and support for a truly moving havdalah ceremony led by our neshama musicians. The lights were dimmed, havdalah candles were lit and many a tear shed.
After much singing and dancing a light supper was served and the importance of the occasion was savoured.