Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Congregation (MMAE) will mark the next chapter in its combined 124-year history with the installation of Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro as its spiritual leader today (Sunday, November 20). The 30-year-old rabbi began serving MMAE in June 2010, following the synagogue’s comprehensive two-year search to replace Rabbi Elan Adler, who made Aliyah to Israel.
According to Membership Committee Co-Chair Sheila Seiden, Rabbi Shapiro “was perfect for us, as we shared views on Modern Orthodoxy, and he shared with Rabbi Adler the same warmth and a similar personality.”
Rabbi Shapiro’s Background
A Chicago native and Brandeis University graduate, Rabbi Shapiro studied Torah at Skokie University and Yeshivat Hakotel. He received his ordination from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, where he studied under Rabbi Avi Weiss and was one of two Jewish students featured in the 2010 PBS Independent Lens documentary “The Calling.”
In addition to chaplaincy internships at St. Luke’s Hospital and Riker’s Island Prison, he completed rabbinic internships at Isralight Institute in Israel, Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel in Chicago and The National Synagogue in Washington, D.C.
As a rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom in Red Bank, N.J., he began many new traditions such as an annual shofar blowing contest, a latke festival, a Jewish reggae festival and monthly Friday night dinners – all of which he has brought to MMAE.
Since arriving at MMAE, he is most enthusiastic about the haimishe (home-like) quality of the congregants and the congregation. And the congregation has quickly taken to him. Membership has increased more than 33 percent, and now comprises 330 families: with over 515 individuals not including children.
“I want to grow slowly in a sustainable way,” Rabbi Shapiro said. “I would never want to grow too fast. I’m trying to build a strong community for the future.”
Overall, he has sought to change the image of MMAE as “your grandparents’shul,” and make it “a shul for every generation” by introducing programming “that’s very cool, very youthful and very imaginative.”
In addition to expanding the weekly children’s prayer in the Shabbat service, he has reached out to young families through regular community Shabbat dinners and one-on-one meetings.
“He has maintained a concentration on activities for youth,” commented MMAE Youth Director Steven Land. “In the short time he has been at MMAE, Rabbi Shapiro has devoted two new spaces in the beautifully renovated synagogue complex to young people. He established a youth playroom featuring foosball, ping pong and billiards, while creating a separate babysitting area for use during religious services.”
Rabbi Shapiro also created a Tikun Olam (repair the world) youth camp, coordinated by synagogue member Ilana Grossman. “We never imagined performing mitzvahs in our community could be so much fun,” said campers Aaron and Lauren Fink.
Furthermore, he has introduced several new programs including Chanukah latke and Purim parties, a Doctor’s Day Shabbat, chocolate and community Pesach seders, Lag B’Omer bonfire, Shavout community dinner, Mexican Shabbat dinner.
A former high school “ironman tackle,” Rabbi Shapiro also loves the Ravens.
Rabbi Shapiro’s installation banquet will take place today, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., at MMAE (7000 Rockland Hills Dr., Baltimore, MD 21209).
Speakers will include Rabbi Avi Weiss, Dr. Arell Shapiro (Rabbi Shapiro’s mother) and Dr. Helene Shapiro (Rabbi Shapiro’s wife). Catering by Alan Weiss will provide dinner.
The cost is $89 per person ($40 of the ticket price is tax deductible) and RSVPs are required by calling the synagogue at 410-653-SHUL.
Click here for more information on Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Congregation; or call 410-653-SHUL.
Mazel Tov Rabbi Shapiro and MMAE!
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(source: Lawrence Howard & Assoc.)