MARBLEHEAD – Rabbi Michael Schwartz will be exchanging the West Coast for the East as he becomes the new rabbi of Temple Sinai in Marblehead starting July 1, according to Ira Dinnes, the temple’s outgoing president.
“Rabbi Michael comes to us from the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue where his emphasis on adult education, social action and community connection made him a beloved rabbi to many,” Dinnes, who led the search committee, said in a recent statement.
Dinnes said many in the congregation were able to meet the new rabbi and his wife, Tamar Forman, when Schwartz hosted Kabbalat Shabbat services on April 2.
“Congregants from Rabbi Michael’s current synagogue find him to be a wonderful educator who keeps participants on track, has informative readings, and encourages personal thoughts and perspectives; he brought several interesting and creative adult education classes to fruition there and at other temples,” Dinnes wrote.
After discussions last year with the Temple Sinai’s current rabbi, David Cohen-Henriquez, the congregation’s leaders decided not to extend his contract, it was announced in October. Cohen-Henriquez has been the temple’s spiritual leader for seven years.
Schwartz will become the rabbi of a congregation formed in 1953 with 60 families. It originally held services at 140 Atlantic Ave. and hired its first rabbi and cantor in 1955. It opened its building on Community Road in 1961. The synagogue now serves about 200 members.
The temple has been described by Dinnes as a progressive Conservative temple, though it’s no longer affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. The congregation is committed to social action and adult education programs, and serves as the distribution site for Jewish Family & Children’s Service’s kosher food pantry.
The plans is to have the new rabbi lead services in early July with longtime Cantor David Aronson, and begin teaching classes in August after his family has settled here.
“I know Rabbi Michael is looking forward to meeting many of you as we re-open Temple Sinai more broadly in the summer months leading to the High Holy Days,” Dinnes stated.
Schwartz is coming to the congregation from a synagogue that overlooks the ocean along the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s a synagogue where worshippers greet dolphins on the beach for Shabbat services, according to the synagogue’s website.
A native of Richmond, Va., and a graduate of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Schwartz comes to Marblehead with a range of experiences from across the globe, according to his profile on the Malibu synagogue’s website.
In 1997, Schwartz made Aliyah and was ordained by the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem in 2001. He and his wife, Tamar, have four children: Binyamin, Yarden, Zohar, and David.
Before serving in Malibu, he was rabbi and director of education at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, Calif.; rabbi and Jewish studies teacher at the American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, N.C.; and rabbi at the United Jewish Congregation in Hong Kong for about three years, Dinnes said in his statement.
Other roles include serving as the High Holidays rabbi of the International Jewish Center in Brussels and the education director of the Hod v’Hadar community in Kfar Saba, Israel, according to his online bio.
While living and serving several communities as a rabbi in Israel, he met his wife, who is a potter and an educator.
“Rabbi Michael and Tamar are very much looking forward to joining the Temple Sinai community,” Dinnes wrote. Of the couple’s four children, two attend college, one is in high school, and one goes to elementary school.
As an educator, Schwartz founded and directed the Human Rights Beit Midrash program at Hebrew University Beit Hillel in Jerusalem and guided high school and college Jewish groups through Israel for more than a decade.
“His work as an activist for Tikkun Olam has included interreligious cooperation and peacebuilding, addressing issues of social justice and security from a balanced human rights and Jewish perspective, and service as Development Director for the Israel NGO’s ‘Rabbis for Human Rights’ and ‘EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth-Middle East,” his bio states.
“Rabbi Michael,” Dinnes said, “works very hard to create classes and events (both for adults and kids) to bring the community together and loves to make Jewish tradition relevant to our modern lives. He is very active in initiating events around social action,” Dinnes said.
The Temple Sinai Search Committee consisted of Alan Barnett, the temple’s incoming president; Alison Brookes; Barbara Rosenstroch; Carole Skowronski; Emily Andreano; Marjorie Detkin; Merle Hyman; Michael Lawee; Sheldon Brown; and Dinnes.