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Thanks to the Congregation

Rabbi Elliot B. Gertel
May 2, 2013

Dear Rodfei Zedek Family and Friends,

I have enjoyed being at Rodfei Zedek for various events this year, and have enjoyed, as well, exploring other synagogues and communities in Chicagoland during my sabbatical time.

I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks for the generosity of time and of treasure on the part of all of those who have seen to the daily, Sabbath and Festival services, the multigenerational programming, and the administration of the congregation with skill, grace and dedication.  I am particularly grateful to all of our officers and directors and to Cantor Rachel Rosenberg, Sherry Gutman, Leatrice Berman, and Alejandro Martinez.

A special thanks to all of our members and friends for your generosity to the Mortgage Retirement Fund in honor of my retirement.  I understand that we have raised almost two‑thirds of the $300,000 goal.  Also, many thanks for your generosity to the Matzah Fund, which enables us to meet Pesach and hunger needs in the Jewish and general communities, with most of the funds going to Chicago Maot Chittim and to The Ark.  Contributions were still coming in after Pesach, and that was fine; the Matzah Fund has also supported year-round hunger programs such as Mazon and Jewish World Service.

The months have flown by since the wonderful tributes on September 8, when the congregation honored me with a Shalosh Seudot dinner and post-Havdalah music leading in to the Selichot service.  I shall always be grateful to the committee consisting of Louise Holland, Chair, and Joyce Feuer, Sherry Glick, Fran Goldenberg, and Pam Spitzner for the joyous and seamless evening, and will never forget the kind and thoughtful words of David Feuer, Yael Hoffman, Rev. John Modschiedler, Sara Segal‑Loevy, and Robert Shapiro, and the skillful moderation of Ed Hamburg.  Cantors Rachel Rosenberg and Julius Solomon enhanced the evening immeasurably with their chanting.  I shall always cherish the gifts presented to me that evening of an exquisite Havdalah spice box in the form of a stringed instrument and a beautiful framed calligraphy wall‑hanging of the words and music of my Thanksgiving hymn.

I shall always be grateful to Sisterhood for the beautiful album of letters presented to me on Shabbat Shuvah, September 22.  Special thanks to Natalie Goldberg for chairing the event, and to Janet Heifetz for collecting the letters with the help of Judy Chernick, who, in her role as synagogue web editor, has worked tirelessly to archive materials related to my retirement on the Congregation Rodfei Zedek website.  Also, I’ll always remember the kindness of the Men’s Club in presenting me with the Kavod Award a couple of years ago.  Thanks to Andrew Aronson and Cass Friedberg for serving as chairmen, and to Jay Goldenberg for speaking.  I consider myself most fortunate that there was a third event for me to always remember, an evening of tribute from the Friday night Chavurah, arranged by Margo Criscuola, at which I was bestowed the gifts of a drawing and an etching with Judaic themes.

As part of a concert on September 8, our High Holy Day Cantor, Jonathan Miller, a PhD in music who heads Chicago a cappella, brilliantly and graciously arranged four of my compositions for four-part choir and organ.  Jonathan honored me not only with the arrangements but with his heartfelt narration.  Our eight‑voice Festival Choir sang the pieces, joined by Jonathan and helped by Cantor Rosenberg, who sang the solo parts of the first piece.  The organ accompaniment was graciously provided by Esther Criscuola de Laix, also a PhD in music, at whose bat mitzvah and wedding ceremonies I officiated, who works for a music publisher near Madison, WI, and who later played a couple of gems from a new anthology of rare German Jewish organ music.  Musician Seth Hitsky and instrumentalist Hashim Uqdah provided the additional music.  I thought that you would enjoy hearing the four selections arranged by Jonathan Miller and his narration.

Also, we have posted on the website my Kol Nidre sermon, “Voices of Rodfei Zedek,” and a recent review of an interesting television take of the golem legend on Supernatural.  My Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur morning sermons to the congregation were reprinted in an article in the October 5‑11 issue of the Chicago Jewish News entitled, “A Rabbi Says Goodbye.”

Last but not least, it is heartening to know that Rabbi Laurence Edwards will be the Rabbi‑in‑Residence at Congregation Rodfei Zedek during the interim period.  He and his wife, Susan Boone, have been active, encouraging and helpful members, and good friends to our congregants and to me.

With best wishes and every blessing, I am,
As ever,
Rabbi Elliot B. Gertel

From the concert:
Ana Bekoach | Chicago Town | Thanksgiving Hymn | V'shamru

The Pulpit Shelf


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