Wisconsin’s largest synagogue, Congregation Shalom, sees changes

FOX POINT – Congregation Shalom is seeing some changes among its clergy, just as it’s set to embark on a three-year effort to form and implement a vision for its future.

The state’s largest congregation, with more than 900 families, is set for changes in rabbinical staff effective over the July 1, 2018 weekend. Rabbi Rachel Kaplan Marks’s title and duties will change, Rabbi Marcey Rosenbaum is leaving her full-time slot and a new rabbi is joining the congregation.

Rosenbaum will leave her full-time position as director of lifelong learning to move closer to family in Chicago. Marks has served as assistant rabbi at Congregation Shalom since soon after she was ordained in 2015. Now, she will step into Rosenbaum’s education role. Rabbi Jennifer Mangold, fresh out of rabbinical school, will join the congregation as assistant rabbi.

Rabbi Rachel Kaplan Marks

Rabbi Noah Chertkoff will remain senior rabbi, still with some assistance from Rabbi Emeritus Ronald Shapiro. Cantor Karen Berman will also continue her decades-long tenure with the Reform congregation.

The synagogue’s 70th anniversary will be 2021, so its visioning effort will be intended to look out to the next 70 years. There will be a Visioning 70 Committee, with subcommittees, Chertkoff said.

“We are exploring probably from top to bottom what Congregation Shalom is going to look like in the next 70 years,” he said. “We are going to be looking at demographics, at Jewish life in America and comparable synagogues.”

Chertkoff understands the synagogue must find the sweet spot between too much and too little change, as with his approach to “visual tefillah” in the synagogue. At Shalom, this investment in “visual prayer” has taken the form of electronic drop-down screens installed in the sanctuary last summer. The two screens can show words for prayers, or videos and still images. Chertkoff has rolled out use of the screens slowly, to give people a chance to acclimate.

“I think that Shalom has really been good at accepting change and still maintaining a link to the Jewish tradition,” he said. “We are looking to the future with significant confidence.”

Chertkoff is glad that Marks wants to stay with the congregation; the change in her role improves her hours for family time. He noted she holds a master’s degree in Jewish education, in addition to her rabbinical degree.

“She’s worked in many, many synagogues doing educational programming,” Chertkoff said. “Rabbi Rachel is very thoughtful and has wonderful judgement. She has tremendous experience and knowledge from her education pertaining to Jewish education.”

“She really understands young parents and understands the needs of our young people,” he added.

Mangold, the newly ordained rabbi, has worked as a student or intern at congregations in Ohio, Alaska and Indiana. She’s a May 2018 graduate of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.