Congregation Machzikei Hadas has announced the appointment of Rabbi Idan Scher as the modern Orthodox synagogue’s next spiritual leader.
The congregation expects Rabbi Scher and his family will move to Ottawa this summer to begin a year-long transition period ahead of being installed as spiritual leader before the High Holidays in September 2015. During his first year, he will serve as associate rabbi, working closely with Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka, Machzikei Hadas’ spiritual leader since 1967.
The search for a successor to the congregation’s long-serving rabbi began late last year, after Rabbi Bulka announced his plan to retire in 2015.
“We are very excited to welcome Rabbi Idan Scher, his wife, Shifra, and their son, Shlomo, to Congregation Machzikei Hadas,” said Machzikei Hadas President Jonah Rabinovitch in announcing the appointment.
“Rabbi Scher brings a lot of youth, energy and enthusiasm to the congregation. He made an excellent impression during his trial Shabbat, generating a lot of interest and excitement across all demographic groups. We’re confident he can effectively reach out and bring new members into our wonderful shul. I know the congregation will welcome the Schers with open arms.”
The congregation’s Rabbi Search Committee screened 29 applicants for the position, and Rabbi Scher was one of three candidates they recommended to spend a trial Shabbat with the congregation. Following the three trial Shabbats, a vote was held among the Machzikei Hadas membership, and Rabbi Scher received “an overwhelming majority” of votes, according to an email sent April 8 to congregants announcing the appointment.
Although he was born in Chicago and grew up in the United States, Rabbi Scher has familial connections to Ottawa and to Congregation Machzikei Hadas, where both his parents and grandparents were married. He has spent significant time in Ottawa over the years on family visits.
Rabbi Scher is currently working in Baltimore, where he is campus rabbi at the University of Maryland and rabbinic intern at an Orthodox synagogue, Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion.
In accepting the position, Rabbi Scher thanked the Machzikei Hadas community for the welcome he and his wife received during his trial Shabbat and said he’s looking forward to serving the congregation.
“The genuine and enthusiastic welcome with which Shifra and I were greeted by the Machzikei Hadas community during our Shabbos in Ottawa was unlike anything we might have imagined,” he said.
“We were humbled not only by the renowned scholarship of Rabbi Bulka, but also by the obvious achievements of the community as a whole. This is a shul where Jews of diverse backgrounds and paths come together with mutual respect, warmth and delight. Their commitment to the shul is evident everywhere.
“We are deeply honoured and very excited to become part of the journey as we grow together into the future. We couldn’t be happier.”
Rabbi Bulka expressed great enthusiasm about the choice of his successor.
“Rabbi Scher brings to us abundant energy, great ideas, a genuine desire to serve, an engaging personality, an equally committed and dedicated wife, a range of knowledge and ability well beyond his years – in other words, all the makings of a great rabbi,” wrote Rabbi Bulka in a letter to congregants attached to the email announcing the appointment.
“As associate rabbi for the first year, he will be able to ease into becoming rabbi with less pressure, and ample opportunity to learn about the shul, which means to learn about you. After the Schers’ first year, I will assume the role of rabbi emeritus, hopefully available when and if called upon, but respectful of the new reality. The future for our shul looks more than promising with the Schers joining us,” added Rabbi Bulka.
The Ottawa Jewish Bulletin will sit down with Rabbi Scher for a feature interview when he arrives in Ottawa this summer.