‘Passing of the torch’: Beth Tfiloh celebrates installation of Senior Rabbi Chai Posner

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg and Rabbi Chai Posner
From left: Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg and Rabbi Chai Posner (Courtesy of Beth Tfiloh Congregation)

Rabbi Chai Posner has become the fourth senior rabbi in Beth Tfiloh Congregation’s 100-year history.

Beth Tfiloh installed Posner as its new senior rabbi in a ceremony on Saturday, March 5. Posner takes over for Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, who has served as senior rabbi since 1978, and who now becomes rabbi in residence.

Rabbi Chai Posner speaks
Rabbi Chai Posner speaks at the ceremony marking his installation as Beth Tfiloh Congregation’s new senior rabbi. (Courtesy of Beth Tfiloh Congregation)

Posner’s installation ceremony, held in the congregation’s Dahan Sanctuary, was the culmination of a weekend of several activities. The weekend kicked off on March 4 with songs from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School students led by musician Rabbi Shlomo Katz.

[You Should Know … Rabbi Chai Posner]

Speakers at the installation ceremony included Congregation President Gary Eidelman; Zipora Schorr, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School director of education; and Wohlberg. Katz led Havdalah, and there also a video segment featuring Posner’s family, friends, colleagues and mentors. Rabbi Dov Linzer, president and rosh yeshiva at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah — the rabbinical school where Posner received his ordination — gave the blessing.

Schorr spoke of Havdalah not as a symbol of separation, but of bringing together, and pointed out that just as the Havdalah candle illuminates, it does so carrying light from the sublime to the sublime. In terms of the installation of Posner, “We celebrate the passing of the torch, to an era of continuing light, continuing relevance, continuing inspiration,” Schorr said.

Wohlberg shared the history of Beth Tfiloh, remarking that it had had four rabbis in its 100-year history and highlighting that when the congregation’s founding rabbi – Rabbi Samuel Rosenblatt – died, in February 1982, Posner was born. Wohlberg said that when Posner arrived at Beth Tfiloh 12 years ago, he knew Posner was “a natural.”

[Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg to Retire in 2022]

“For nearly 12 years, he has always been there for me, and with me, and so much of what we have accomplished, we couldn’t have done it without him,” Wohlberg said. “I am so glad you are all going to get him — in all of these years, we’ve never had a single disagreement. He has been filled with the spirit of wisdom, stoic as a rock, strongly principled, a wonderful husband. And like Moshe, I am blessed, because Moshe knew that his people were in good hands.”

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg and Rabbi Chai Posner hug
From left: Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg and Rabbi Chai Posner hug at Posner’s installation ceremony. (Courtesy of Beth Tfiloh Congregation)

Posner and Wohlberg embraced after the latter’s remarks. Then Posner expressed gratitude to his father in heaven, to his family, to the congregation and to the installation committee, including Cherie Brownstein, director of co-curricular activities at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, for bringing people together “to enjoy soulful singing, joyous inspiration and authentic connection.”

In addition to serving as senior rabbi, Posner is dean of the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.

Before joining the synagogue, he served as a rabbinic intern with the Beth David Synagogue in West Hartford, Conn., and Kingsway Jewish Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Posner holds a B.A. in Judaic studies from Brooklyn College.

He currently lives in Pikesville with his wife, Rachel, and their four children, who all attend Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.

“It is very humbling and exciting,” Posner said in a phone interview before the installation ceremony. “I feel I am the right rabbi at the right time for Beth Tfiloh. It is a wonderful, wonderful community and I have been delighted to have served as rabbi for the last 12 years and very excited to see what the future holds.”

Attendees dance
Attendees dance at Rabbi Chai Posner’s installation ceremony. (Courtesy of Beth Tfiloh Congregation)

On the installation ceremony, Posner said, “It is a passing of the torch from Rabbi Wohlberg to me, and we want to do so with a lot of joy, and music, a big celebration. It also comes in our 100th year. That is also a very special part for us.

“What makes this very special and unique is the way this transition has occurred,” Posner continued. “I have the utmost respect for Rabbi Wohlberg, and similarly he feels that way to me. He has been rabbi at Beth Tfiloh for close to 45 years. It’s a huge deal that he is stepping back, but here, it has been mutual and loving, and this is very important for all of us. We want a nice, good story about being kind and respectful to each other, and he set the tone for this being a respectful, loving kind of transition.”

In a phone interview after the ceremony, Eidelman described the event as “magical.”

“The whole weekend culminated with Saturday night, and the word I keep coming back to is magical,” he said. “What it also encapsulates is a culmination of the vision that we had at the start of the transition, the seamless transfer from the legacy of Rabbi Wohlberg — a giant in the rabbinate — to the exciting future of Rabbi Posner, and it was on full display on Saturday evening.”

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