After a lengthy search and review process, Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation announced that it has found a new inaugural senior rabbi.
Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi will be the synagogue’s new spiritual leader, starting July 1. Sabath is the first official senior rabbi to be hired at Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom since the once independent congregations of Har Sinai and Oheb Shalom merged in September of 2019.
Sabath is currently a resident of Cincinnati and serves as rabbi of Ohavay Zion Synagogue in Lexington, Ky.
Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom’s Rabbinic Search Committees hired Sabath after reviewing more than 30 resumes and interviewing over 20 candidates in order “to find the rabbi with the skills and gravitas to ensure stability, excitement, and growth for our future,” according to an announcement on the synagogue’s website.
Born in Boston, Sabath moved to Minneapolis with her family when she was in elementary school. Her father, formerly a student and then professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, worked as the head of the department of infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota, while her mother, also Harvard-educated, was an attorney.
Sabath credited two events in her life with her eventual decision to become a rabbi.
The first was her bat mitzvah, during which she “truly had a sense of it being a sacred experience, and that the Torah deeply connected me to God,” she said.
The other was her involvement in the Reform youth movement. While in high school, Sabath was elected as the national vice president of NFTY, she said. At age 17, she joined an international youth leadership mission to Poland and its former concentration camps, led by Holocaust survivors and experts, which she described as a “precursor to the March of the Living.”
“I remember very clearly,” Sabath said, “how overwhelmed I was by the sheer enormity of the catastrophe. … I made a vow that I would commit my life to doing everything I could for the sake of the Jewish people.”
She was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s New York campus in 1995 and received her Ph.D. from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She made aliyah and married a fourth-generation Israeli, who later became a rabbi himself. They have three children.
Sabath said Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom’s merger has been going very well.
“In some ways, Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation is like a blended family,” she said. “Members of the two legacy congregations have different legacies … and in coming together we will become much more than the sum of our parts.”
While the pandemic has prevented the merged congregation from celebrating holidays and lifecycle events together in person, Sabath said she was excited by the prospect of the legacy congregations putting their combined talents into the new synagogue.
“As the Congregation comes together,” Sabath said, “there’s a kind of synergy and excitement and spiritual energy that is propelling everyone forward.”