Rabbi H. David Rose, spiritual leader of Herzl-Ner Tamid Congregation for 15 of the past 18 years, said good-bye last week with a good feeling in his heart.
“Seattle has been wonderful to me. It’s a wonderful place. I’ve felt myself grow as the community has grown,” Rose said.
He has witnessed advances in both his Conservative congregation on Mercer Island and the wider Jewish community.
“I’m very proud of how Herzl has grown over the years. The numbers are nice, but I’m more proud of how Herzl has grown in commitment and involvement,” Rose said. “I think that over this time, Herzl has become a much more welcoming and wide open and diverse place and I’m proud of that.”
As he and his family packed to move to Potomac, Md., where he will be senior rabbi at Congregation Har Shalom, Rose also reflected on his place in the greater Seattle Jewish community.
“When I started working on addiction issues and domestic violence issues, there was nobody in those jobs at Jewish Family Service. There are now professionals working in those areas,” he said. “The rabbinic community in Seattle is much more diverse than when I came here and is much more aware of those issues than was the case 13 years ago.”
Among other accomplishments, Rose will be remembered for opening his door to Jews in recovery and for welcoming the first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to a local synagogue.
“I’m looking forward to new challenges,” he said of the 1,200-family congregation in Maryland, which is about a third bigger than Herzl-Ner Tamid. Rabbi Leonard Cahan is retiring after 27 years on the pulpit at Har Shalom. “He’s been wonderful, very welcoming and supportive,” Rose said of Cahan, who will be the first rabbi emeritus he has worked with.
Rose described Har Shalom as a creative, dynamic, hands-on congregation, filled with young families. There are 89 B’nai Mitzvah scheduled for next year. The 35-year-old congregation in a suburb of Washington, D.C., takes an informal approach to worship, with a horseshoe-shaped sanctuary and the rabbi sitting on the same level as the congregation and speaking from the floor. This is in contrast to Herzl-Ner Tamid’s formal, theater-style sanctuary.
During his first year in Maryland, Rose plans to focus primarily on getting to know the congregation. “Some of my work with people in recovery and domestic violence and some of the larger community issues … will be put on the side a little bit,” he said.
He will miss the view from his office and the people he has gotten to know through 18 years of their lives. “I’ve seen so many people grow up and get married,” going through several cycles of the lifecycle with Seattle-area families. Rose first came to Herzl-Ner Tamid in 1983 and served as the assistant rabbi for two years before leaving for a pulpit in Tampa, Fla., for three years. He returned 13 years ago this month as senior rabbi.
The Mercer Island synagogue began to search earlier this spring for both a senior and assistant rabbi. Members of the congregation learned recently that Rabbi Lisa Gelber has decided to stay on for at least a year to help the synagogue during this transitional time.
The Herzl-Ner Tamid board of directors did not renew Rose’s contract after they failed to reach agreement on efforts to renegotiate the terms of his employment, according to a letter to the congregation from Richard Du Bey, president of the board of directors.
“The circumstances that led Herzl-Ner Tamid’s Board of Directors to make a change in the senior rabbi position have evolved over the last several months,” Du Bey wrote. “Rabbi Rose asked the Board of Directors to re-negotiate portions of his existing contract. While progress was made addressing some of Rabbi Rose’s concerns, disagreements later emerged around others. Sadly, for all of us, the many meetings, discussions and careful deliberations failed to resolve all of them.”
Rose’s departure will have repercussions all over the community. His wife, Natalie Merkur-Rose, has played a significant role at Jewish Family Service as the director of its family education and outreach efforts. His mother-in-law, Harriett Merkur, is a beloved teacher at Temple B’nai Torah. Their children, Avigail and Zev, will be missed by their friends at the Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle.
“Natalie is chief of the Rose family transition team, which is a big job,” Rabbi Rose said last week. “She’s excited about all the different options in the D.C. area” but has chosen to postpone her job search until the family is settled in Maryland. Avigail and Zev will both attend the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, which educates 1,400 students from from kindergarten to high school.
Rose said the whole family is looking forward to new challenges and experiences in the “other Washington” and hopes that people will look them up when they are in the D.C. area. For more information about Congregation Har Shalom, visit the congregation’s Web site, www.harshalom.org.