Although Rabbi Eytan Kenter has been in place since last summer as senior rabbi at Kehillat Beth Israel, he will be formally installed in the position over the weekend of April 21 to 23.
“The weekend itself represents our excitement with both Rabbi Kenter and the birth of our new shul,” said installation committee co-chair Faye Goldman. “It’s an official marking; it’s an exciting crossroad for the shul.”
The centrepieces at the Friday night Shabbat dinner on April 21 will be little pails and shovels with bedding herbs. On Sunday, April 23, congregants, especially the young, will plant seedlings, paint rocks and decorate the big planter boxes of the Installation Garden.
“It will be an ongoing project to enhance Kehillat Beth Israel into the future,” said Carol Gradus, co-chair of the installation committee, who had the garden idea in February and is thrilled to see it come to pass.
“When Rabbi Kenter decided in January he wanted to have his installation April 21 to 23, he reached out to Faye and me as co-chairs of the rabbi search committee, and said ‘Since you got me here, it would be nice if you completed this task,’” said Gradus.
Gradus said the congregation was looking forward to “formally welcoming” Rabbi Kenter, who was joined in Ottawa by his wife, Staci Zemlak-Kenter, and their young son, Boaz.
“The installation takes us beyond the idea of negotiated contracts and the rabbi as an employee, which all too often diminishes the respect and recognition of the role of the rabbi,” said Stuart McCarthy, co-president of Kehillat Beth Israel.
“The installation becomes our affirmation of the congregation as a kehillat (community); that we recognize the spiritual authority of the rabbi as mara d’atra (master of the place), and also as the unquestioned religious authority and religious leader of the congregation,” said McCarthy. “At the same time, it is a moment where the rabbi is going to make his commitment to the longer term leadership of the kehillat. This becomes a really special moment in our history and a moment we’re all looking forward to.”
Weekend events include a Gala Spring Celebration Shabbat Dinner during which Rabbi Kenter will be released and blessed by representatives of B’nai Torah, his former congregation in Atlanta, both in person and by video.
Rabbi Kenter will be installed and blessed by his father, Rabbi Barry Kenter, and welcomed by Kehillat Beth Israel’s co-presidents, McCarthy and Lorne Goldstein, followed by Kabbalat Shabbat services and a dessert reception.
“Our Rabbi Kenter will speak, and we will welcome his family as well,” said Gradus. “It’s a very spiritual activity.”
A native of Westchester, New York, Rabbi Kenter joined Congregation B’nai Torah in Atlanta, Georgia, following his ordination in 2009.
“A new rabbi for a new synagogue is a time of great enthusiasm and possibility,” said Rabbi Kenter. “And the installation is a nice opportunity for us to come together to celebrate what has already happened, and all the wonderful things we have in store.”
Rabbi Kenter said that, since his arrival in Ottawa, he has made a strong effort to meet with three to five people a week to get to know his congregants.
“I see myself as the ‘chief relationship officer’ of the synagogue, and this installation weekend will give people a chance to get to know me better,” he said.
“We have between 1,100 and 1,200 congregants,” said McCarthy. “We’re the largest synagogue in Ottawa now. We’re a Conservative, egalitarian, fully inclusive congregation, with a rich history of multiple congregations coming together over the years, now to form a single kehillat. When we hired Rabbi Kenter, our first senior rabbi, it was a monumental occasion for our new congregation because he came with no preconceived biases and his focus is on leading us forward.”
For more information, or to reserve places at the special Shabbat dinner, contact Susan Grossner at 613-789-3501 or firstname.lastname@example.org.