The retirement of a rabbi after leading his congregation for 36 years has to be unsettling. But the leadership of Temple Rodeph Torah in Marlboro sees Rabbi Donald Weber’s retirement in June as a new beginning for the temple.
Weber has led Rodeph Torah since 1984, but he decided last summer that it’s time to turn his work over to a new generation. He is leaving the active rabbinate and will join his wife, Rabbi Shira Stern, the temple’s rabbinic associate, in retirement in Lenox, Mass. He has been named rabbi emeritus of Rodeph Torah.
In a letter to temple members last July, Weber said, “I am in awe of how much we, together, have accomplished. We built a building; we built a community … We brought our own excitement to Jewish life and Jewish learning, and that excitement has been contagious.”
In sharing news of Weber’s retirement with the congregation, the temple’s president, Tmima Grinvald, said the temple was at a turning point. “We are at the doorstops of renewal for our congregation,’’ she said. Saying goodbye to Weber and Stern “has to be a prelude to ushering a new beginning.”
Rabbi Marc Disick will serve as interim rabbi in leading Rodeph Torah starting July 1. An interim rabbi is trained to help congregations identify the guiding criteria toward the future of the community, especially after a long-tenured rabbi. Disick will be joined by Cantor Lisa Levine, a nationally renowned composer, recording artist and worship leader. As artist-in-residence, Levine will work with the congregation and choir throughout the year on special music programs and services.
Grinvald said she is excited the temple has retained Disick and Levine. “Their talents will help us shape our future, as we will be building on the legacy and foundation of the caring community that we formed in 1980.”
The coronavirus pandemic has altered the temple’s celebration of Weber’s last months as rabbi. The temple building has been closed, with services and programs continuing online. One meaningful goodbye was held in May, a Drive Bye Parade. Dozens of cars drove through the temple parking lot to express thank you and congratulations to Weber and Stern as they sat in front of the building with their three sons. The parade started with shofar-blowing and included dozens of first responders – in fire trucks, police cars and EMT vehicles – expressing their thanks.
Weber is a life member of the Morganville First Aid and Rescue Squad and has been a chaplain for the Marlboro Police Department. Stern is a pastoral counselor and Disaster Spiritual Care provider for the American Red Cross. She was the TRT Primary School educator for nine years before assuming her rabbinic associate role in 2016.