Adventures of a Chief Rabbi: Rabbinate Year-End Report

December 30, 2013

Rabbinate Year-End Report

My bosses have already seen and reviewed my report, but seeing as I am also a public Jewish communal servant, I thought I would share this with my broader boss-base. Improvements, suggestions and new efforts for next year are welcome (as long as you will participate in and/or fund such suggestions…)

It’s relatively short, with little narrative and no dialogue…

RabinatoLogo

Year-end Report of Rabbinate Activities 2013

Executive Summary

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” -Henry Ford

The team supporting the Rabbinate, including fully dedicated staff, supporting personnel, lay leadership, volunteers and participants have come together to reestablish the Rabbinate as a source of religious authority, guidance, education and inspiration for the broader Jewish community of Uruguay.

Areas of Activity

  • Kashrut
  • Chevra Kadisha
  • Cemetery Services
  • High Holidays
  • Kabalat Shabat
  • Adult Education
  • School Enrichment
  • Guest Lecturing
  • Special Events
  • Counseling
  • Mediation
  • Community Relations
  • Weddings
  • Bar-Mitzvahs
  • Certificates of Judaism
  • Divorces
  • Other

Summary

The period beginning May 1, 2013 until today has been marked by intense activity throughout all classic areas of Rabbinate responsibility in addition to new fields of engagement. There has been a steep learning-curve of not only language, but culture, personalities, institutions, community history, logistics and the requirements for daily living and management.

The weekly and sometimes daily feedback that the Rabbinate receives as to its activities have all been profoundly positive from a broad range of the Jewish community. Based on our efforts to-date, there is a sense of optimism and hope that the Rabbinate can improve multiple areas of concern to the Jewish community.

Highlights

Kashrut (supervised by Moshe Silberberg):

  • Identification and production of over 60 new kosher products for Uruguayan market.
  • Ongoing clarification and investigation of kosher status of products and vendors.
  • Ongoing supervision of catering, events, eateries, meat, chicken, cheese, cakes and baked goods.
  • Introduction of new kosher caterer: Elena Tejiera.
  • In process of giving full kosher certification to Hogar Israelita.
  • Development of online database of kosher products.

Chevra Kadisha (supervised by Moshe Silberberg):

  • Ongoing Tahara of dead of the entire community.
  • Verification and confirmation of proper procedures and rituals in performance of Tahara.
  • Introduction and training of new Chevra Kadisha members.
  • Volunteer group to be organized, trained and involved in coming year.
  • New supervisor for women’s Tahara to be hired.

Cemetery Services (main officer: Santos Sabach – currently on medical leave)

  • Officiating at funeral home and cemetery.
  • Accompanying families and conducting services for Shloshim and Matzeiva ceremonies.
  • Reuben Beitler filling in for Santos.
  • Training and introduction of new officers.
  • Hiring of additional part-time officer and new Rabbinate member.

High Holidays (Hazan: Abraham Szmirewicz)

  • Strong marketing campaign led by Communications Department.
  • Highest multi-year turnout.
  • Rosh Hashana night services at Franzini considered big success.
  • Marijuana panel for Yom Kippur attracted new people and record attendance.
  • Yom Kippur services well-attended, with capacity crowd for Neilah.
  • Already preparing together with Hazan and Choir better program for next year:
    • Will serve Kiddush during Rosh Hashana services (before Shofar).
    • Will have reduced prayers, more content and more exciting melodies for Yom Kippur.

Kabalat Shabat

  • Started services at Maimonides together with Yavne Rabbis:
    • Good turnout, but Kehila members did not feel “at home”
  • Continued services at Franzini on our own:
    • Lesser turnout, still doesn’t feel like home, but circumstances in flux.
  • Will need to consider additional strategies and marketing for next year.

Adult Education

  • Conducting five weekly regular classes:
    • Parashat Hashavua: Franzini, Tuesdays 20:30
    • Jewish History: Franzini, Wednesdays 21:00
    • Women’s Class: Wednesdays 19:30
    • Maimonides: Yavne Yeshiva, Wednesday 08:45
    • Laws of Shabbat: Mondays 20:30
  • Franzini proving to be a good location for classes as well as other Kehila activities.
  • Exploring expanding the Adult Education program with additional lecturers.

School Enrichment

  • Have been a regular lecturer at both Integral and Yavne schools, speaking mostly to high schools students around the holidays and other special events.
  • Exploring giving weekly classes at each school next year.

Guest Lecturing

  • Have spoken at numerous of the Adult groups.
  • Guest lecturer at conference at Faculty of Law.
  • Participated in Rabbinic panel about law of organ donation.
  • Gave well-received lecture at NCI.
  • Lecturing next year at Inter-Religious Bible Conference.

Special Events

  • Did “l’chaims” and blew shofar at multiple venues for Rosh Hashana.
  • Special Sukah gathering at one of the Adult groups.
  • Extremely well-attended candle-lighting event, supporting annual Chabad effort.
  • Frequently invited to variety of public events.

Counseling (with assistance of Evelin Zelmonovich)

  • Have been called on by a number of members needing counseling on a variety of issues.
  • Providing assistance with direct or indirect support of Evelin.

Mediation

  • Have been called upon by members to mediate in financial disagreements.
  • Have achieved varying measures of success in resolving disputes.

Community Relations

  • Working on improving the relationships between different Jewish groups.
  • Have actively engaged with a multiplicity of Jewish organizations in Uruguay.
  • Have conducted joint programs and activities with different organizations and planning more for the coming year.

Weddings

  • Have conducted two weddings and conducting two more in January/February.
  • Requiring all couples to sign pre-nuptial agreement.

Bar-Mitzvahs

  • Have conducted two Bar-Mitzvahs in Franzini. None booked yet for next year.

Certificates of Judaism

  • We are issuing Certificates of Judaism on a weekly basis.
  • Have instituted that each person requires a personal interview.

Divorces

  • We’ve conducted three divorces with the office of Rav Feigelstock of Buenos Aires.
  • Several more are waiting for the next visit of Rav Feigelstock.
  • We have one case of a civilly divorced couple where the husband is demanding payment for the ‘get’.

Other

  • Pre-nuptial agreements: Standard for all weddings and introducing to other office visitors.
  • Chouchani Conference: Initial plans for International Conference November 2014.

2 thoughts on “Adventures of a Chief Rabbi: Rabbinate Year-End Report

  1. Besa^du
    I would suggest the Chief Rabbay Bentzion, to give us to know, the personal events of the families who belong to the kehila. Ex.: births, bar-bat mitzvoth, weddings, passing away. This is a very common jewish tradition, from little shtetls of Europe. I guess sephradim, and jews from arab countries, have the same tradition too. This could be done through the e- mail from the kehila, which I usually receive.
    The conservative ishuv had implemented it, many years ago.
    Thank you for your time.
    Warm regards,
    shabat shalom

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