Rabbi Idan Scher will be formally installed, September 1, as spiritual leader of Congregation Machzikei Hadas. He will succeed Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka, who has led the modern Orthodox congregation since 1967, and will become the congregation’s rabbi emeritus.
Rabbi Scher arrived in Ottawa from Baltimore last summer, with his wife Shifra and their son Shlomo, and has spent the past year working with Rabbi Bulka as associate rabbi while getting to know the congregation and Ottawa’s Jewish community.
In Baltimore, Rabbi Scher served as campus rabbi at the University of Maryland and was a rabbinic intern at an Orthodox synagogue.
After growing up in Chicago and working in Baltimore, large American cities with large Jewish communities, Rabbi Scher said he’s been enjoying living and working in Ottawa over the past year.
“I love it. I love the people, the way they live their lives,” he said.
Although Rabbi Scher was born and raised in Chicago, he has a number of relatives in Ottawa – both his parents and grandparents were married at Machzikei Hadas – and he visited Ottawa often over the years. He said the warm welcome he has received from the congregation makes him feel “like I have a huge extended family.”
Asked about the transitional period at Machzikei Hadas over the past year, Rabbi Scher said he’s been lucky to have been mentored by Rabbi Bulka.
“Many people thought [the transition] wouldn’t be the easiest for me … but it’s been beyond my expectations. Rabbi Bulka has been so supportive throughout this past year … people take direction from him, and the confidence he has had in me made it easier for them to accept me. Rabbi Bulka has done a lot of the difficult work on my behalf.”
Rabbi Scher said what made his first year in Ottawa so special was that it wasn’t only the Machzikei Hadas community that was so welcoming; it was the entire Ottawa Jewish community.
“It shows how passionately the entire community cares for the vibrancy and continuity of Jewish life,” he said. “[It] makes me wake up knowing I love what I’m doing and gives me the confidence to do what I envision for Ottawa.”
The specific moment that made him certain his move to Ottawa was the best decision he’s ever made took place last September during his first Rosh Hashanah here.
“I had no idea what I got myself into,” recalled Rabbi Scher as he described his nervousness about speaking on the second day of Rosh Hashanah to such a large congregation. “I put thought into it and I think I said it pretty well. Afterward, Rabbi Bulka was very kind, saying, ‘Now you all got to see why Rabbi Scher has my vote, and I’m sure he has all your votes as well.’”
Rabbi Scher noted that congregations today must continue to change to meet the needs of its congregants and the community.
“Judaism is constantly evolving,” he said. “What spoke to people 10 years ago does not speak to them today, and what speaks to people today will not speak to them in 10 years.”
The installation of Rabbi Scher, and the appointment of Rabbi Bulka as rabbi emeritus, is on Tuesday, September 1, at Congregation Machzikei Hadas. The evening begins with a reception at 6:30 pm to be followed by the ceremony at 7:30.
Rabbi Scher said he plans to use the opportunity – in addition to expressing his gratitude – as a platform to give a “state of union address” and share his vision and plans for the congregation.
For more information, contact Michael Goldstein at 613-521-9700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.