MUNSTER | In a ceremony steeped in tradition and history, Rabbi Leonard Zukrow was installed as spiritual leader of Temple Beth-El during Friday’s Shabbat worship service attended by a multigenerational group of several hundred people.
Rabbi Lisa Sari Bellows, of Congregation Beth Am in Buffalo Grove, Ill., officiated at the installation of Zukrow, who came to Temple Beth-El on July 1 following the retirement of Rabbi Michael Stevens. Bellows was a student of Zukrow.
The installation of a new rabbi is the modern equivalent of ceremonies that heralded a new king, prophet, spiritual leader or military leader in ancient times, said Stevens, Temple Beth-El’s rabbi emeritus, who served for 25 years as spiritual leader.
“It is common in reformed congregations to install the rabbi in the fall after the High Holy Days,” he said.
Born in Milwaukee, Zukrow served as an educator in schools across the U.S. and as the rabbi of congregations in Florida and Nevada.
A teacher and advocate for social justice and social action, he said coming to the Munster-based synagogue “has been wonderful."
"In brief, it feels like home," he said.
“In a way, this night is like a wedding,” Zukrow said in his installation sermon. “Last April we met and we did our courting. We discovered that we liked each other, and we committed ourselves to a relationship that we celebrate this evening.”
That emphasis on building relationships and celebrating Jewish traditions resounded throughout the installation ceremony.
“What do I seek from you? A willingness to try, to grow, to find ways to make being Jewish meaningful and significant; to help us see how our rich Jewish traditions speak to our contemporary needs,” Zukrow said to those gathered for the services.
During his five months at Temple Beth-El, the rabbi said he’s been “emerging into the community."
"I’ve served on boards of food pantries. I’m especially interested in arts and education and may get involved in that," he said.
Zukrow said another interest that could connect him with the community is serving the needs of youth and the elderly.
“Once I know who the players are and what the needs are, I will become more involved in the community,” he said, adding that he would welcome calls from individuals and organizations to join their community efforts.