Each year at CCAR Convention, we honor members of our organization who were ordained 50 years ago or more. In advance of CCAR Convention 2021, March 14-17, we share a blog from Rabbi Mayer Perelmuter.
Upon reflection, I am so grateful to have been in one congregation over the majority of these years. It enabled me to grow and develop a congregation and to see Temple Isaiah through some difficult financial crises, until it blossomed into the largest and most active Reform congregation in Queens, New York: The Reform Temple of Forest Hills.
Here are some of the accomplishments of which I am most proud:
- I hired and trained numerous rabbinic interns who are currently religious leaders throughout the country.
- I instituted a temple covenant with our board of directors and committee leaders, developing a humane, sensitive, way to agree and disagree as we worked together.
- I expanded the temple covenant with our lay and professional educational leadership, to be part of the religious school classrooms; this covenant continues to be the opening lesson in our religious school to this day.
- Our Mitzvah Day committee started out as a “senior group,” but with my advocacy and encouragement, it became an intergenerational event that included and partnered with the Religious School Parents’ Association. To this day, Mitzvah Day is our most celebrated intergenerational event in the congregation and is known throughout Queens.
- Prior to the High Holy Days in 1994, Temple Isaiah’s roof was leaking, and the sanctuary was unusable. In partnership with our board, we made the decision to build an ark and move the services to a local college. The lesson that the congregation learned continues to this day: “We celebrate together as a congregational family, not as a building.” This was the rationale that enabled me, in partnership with our board leadership, to convince Temple Isaiah congregants to merge with three other struggling Queens congregations to become the Reform Temple of Forest Hills in 1995.
- I loved establishing a men’s study group to complement the active women’s groups in our congregation. This weekly men’s study group, which drew diverse ages and very curious intelligent men, was provocative, challenging and exciting for me, and continues to exist today.
- I learned so much from my congregational leaders, from my rabbinic interns, cantors, and most important, from my congregants. My involvement, pastorally with them was among the most meaningful aspects of my rabbinate. I treasure the relationships that developed through the numerous life cycle events, sometimes over three generations; the joys and sorrows that I was privileged to share with these people have influenced my life and have enabled me to cope with my own challenges in life as I grow older.
Rabbi Mayer Perelmuter is celebrating 50 years in the Reform Rabbinate. He is Rabbi Emeritus of The Reform Temple of Forest Hills in New York.
We look forward to celebrating 50- and 51-year rabbis when we come together online at CCAR Convention 2021, March 14-17, 2021. CCAR Convention 2021 will strengthen us spiritually, emotionally, and professionally, bringing us together at a time when we need it more than ever. CCAR rabbis can register here.
One reply on “Growing A Congregation and Watching It Bloom: Rabbi Mayer Perelmuter on 50 Years in the Rabbinate”
For many years, I preached the value of Jewish community. I found my message validated at the welcoming congregation which Rabbi Mayer Perelmuter helped to create. When we retired and moved to Forest Hills, NY, Joyce and I knew no one nearby, not even a colleague. Naturally, the first thing we did was to attend Shabbat services at the local Reform synagogue. We met Mayer and within two weeks, the Temple Board voted to accept us as honorary members! So, now we have Jewish community and friends, like Mayer and Debby. Thanks, Mayer! and mazal tov on 50 years in a most successful rabbinate.