After serving the Beth Tfiloh community in Baltimore for 40 years, Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg will retire January 1, 2022 and Associate Rabbi Chai Posner will take up the mantle of senior rabbi, Beth Tfiloh announced this week.
“It’s hard to believe that I may be the oldest practicing rabbi in Baltimore!” Wohlberg joked in an email interview. “The key thing was that I wanted to be able to tell the congregation that it was time for me to retire before the congregation told it to me.”
In addition to his role as rabbi, Wohlberg is the author of several books, including “Pulpit Power” and “The Un-Haggadah: How to Keep the Conversation and Wine Flowing at Your Seder.”
Wohlberg said he will be writing another book, a collection of his sermons, and continue to be involved at Beth Tfiloh.
According to the Beth Tfiloh website, Wohlberg “is known for his warmth, his humor, and his inspiring and insightful sermons, which are read by thousands over the Internet.”
The sermons he will compile for his next book will be “drawing upon what we can learn from the rich and famous,” he said.
Wohlberg said the day school at Beth Tfiloh and the synagogue’s commitment to the Jewish future were what first attracted him to the role of rabbi there.
“I had no idea that we were going to be able to accomplish what we have: building a high school, a chapel, new day school edifice, etc. etc. and being able to impact on the lives of thousands of Baltimore families in a positive Jewish way,” he said.
Posner, who has been with Beth Tfiloh since 2010, was ordained by the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School. He currently resides in Pikesville with his wife and four children.
“I was thrilled, honored, and humbled to be offered this position and excited about what it means for our future.” said Posner via email.
A rabbinic search committee convened in June and approached him as their first candidate. After some discussion, Posner said, he was recommended for the position.
Wohlberg said he thinks Posner will be a “perfect fit for what Beth Tfiloh is, can be, and will be.”
“The selection of Rabbi Posner indicates a need for new blood and new ideas, while at the same time maintaining the religious philosophy that is unique to Beth Tfiloh,” Wohlberg said. “In his [time] here as rabbi, he has shown a warmth, maturity, intellect that has endeared him to one and all.”
Until the transition in 2022, rabbinic duties will continue to be divided among Wohlberg, Posner, Associate Rabbi Eli Yoggev, and Rabbi Chaim Wecker, ritual director.
“Rabbi Wohlberg has grown Beth Tfiloh into the thriving shul and school that it is, and I see my role as the next in this chain,” Posner said. “Moving into the next generation and keeping our tradition relevant and inspiring in a changing world, presents challenges and opportunities.”
Some congregants expressed concern to the Baltimore Jewish Times that in Wolhberg’s absence, the synagogue will move more toward liberal or Open Orthodoxy.
Rabbi Wohlberg’s response?
“In the past 40 years every time we’ve done something here at Beth Tfiloh people have said that we’re either moving to the right or moving to the left, when in reality, all we have been doing is moving forward to strengthen ourselves as a Modern Orthodox congregation, a congregation that stresses both modernity and Orthodoxy.”
Posner agreed, saying the synagogue “has remained rooted in tradition while successfully adapting to the world around it.”
“I look forward to upholding Beth Tfiloh’s steeped traditions and its reputation as one of the most acclaimed modern orthodox synagogues in the country,” Posner said. “I deeply believe that in the midst of all of these changes people are searching for meaning, authenticity and inspiration. As Judaism continues to evolve — as it has for centuries — it faces new challenges and circumstances.” JT
CORRECTION (9/12/19 12:33 p.m.): This article originally reported that Rabbi Posner has three children, when in fact he has four children. The editorial staff of the JT apologize for the error.