The Southwest Hebrew Congregation hired Bernard H. Mehlman, its first full time rabbi, in 1967, four years after its founding. Prior to that, the fledgling congregation had relied on Rabbi Richard Hirsch, the director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center in Washington, and rabbis from other cities who happened to be visiting Washington to lead services and perform other rabbinic duties part time. During Mehlman’s 11-year tenure, the congregation changed its name to Temple Micah, quadrupled its membership, engaged actively in social justice and matured into a stable institution.
Rabbi Mehlman on His Hiring and Reform vs. Conservative Decision
“I asked, “What is your expectation of your rabbi as a learner, as a student?”
Rabbi Mehlman on Micah’s Beginnings and St. Augustine’s
Robert K. Baruch became Micah’s second rabbi in 1978 and stayed until 1983 when he moved to California. His moment of fame came in 1996 when he appeared briefly as the rabbi performing the wedding of the main characters in the movie, The Birdcage. He also taught Judaic Studies at Milkin Community School, a private Jewish school in Los Angeles. He died on May 20, 2018. He was 73 years old.
In 1983, the congregation hired Daniel G. Zemel. When he arrived at Micah, Zemel was 30-years-old and Micah was his first solo rabbinate. Following his ordination as rabbi, he had served for four years as assistant rabbi at Temple Israel in Minneapolis and was “looking to take the next step in my career,” as he said. He is now in his fourth decade with Micah.
My Early Days, Rabbi Zemel
Micah intrigued me during the interview process…If I was following conventional wisdom, I would never have taken the Micah job.
By 2005, ensconced in its own home on Wisconsin Ave., NW, Temple Micah had grown too large for one overworked rabbi to serve alone. So, Toby H. Manewith joined as associate rabbi and stayed for four years. She was succeeded in 2009 by Esther L. Lederman who had served as a rabbinic fellow at B’nai Jeshurun synagogue in New York City following her ordination as rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Lederman signed on as assistant rabbi and was promoted to associate rabbi in 2012. She left the post—but not Temple Micah—in 2015, to take a position with the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism. Meanwhile, in 2014, newly minted rabbi, Joshua I. Beraha, assumed the job of Director of Congregational Learning. In 2015, assistant rabbi was added to his title and in 2018 he became associate rabbi. Meanwhile, Rabbi Susan Landau joined the rabbinic roster as assistant rabbi in 2015, shortly after her ordination. She only stayed for three successful years, because at Temple Micah she met student rabbi, then Rabbi Danny Moss. They married in 2018 and she moved to Connecticut, the location of his pulpit. (This is one of many instances where Micah played Cupid. See Micah Love Connection.). In 2018, another young rabbi fresh out of the Reform seminary in New York, Stephanie Crawley, became assistant rabbi.
My Time as Rabbi at Temple Micah, Rabbi Lederman
Being a rabbi at Temple Micah felt very warm and embracing and … I always felt intellectually challenged in the most positive way. To be with Rabbi Zemel is to be with someone trying to think not only outside the box but without a box…I feel very blessed that I got to spend six years as a rabbi here.
Micah’s Mission Statement and Next Dor, Rabbi Lederman
How I Became a Rabbi, Rabbi Beraha
At the time I was doing almost nothing Jewish…It was in me to find the Jewish world again.
My Personal Story, Rabbi Susan Landau
When I discovered I could be paid for living the meaningful Jewish life I valued, becoming a rabbi seemed the most natural decision.
My Thoughts About Micah, Rabbi Susan Landau
I discovered a place that really its messy and not pretentious…The level of trust, respect and collaboration is a huge gift.
|1964-1967||Richard G. Hirsch (part-time)|
|1967-1978||Bernard H. Mehlman|
|1973-1983||Robert K. Baruch|
|1983-present||Daniel G. Zemel|
|2005-2009||Toby H. Manewith, associate (part-time)|
|2009-2012||Esther Lederman, assistant|
|2012-2015||Esther Lederman, associate|
|2014-pesent||Josh Beraha, director of congregational learning|
|2015-2018||Josh Beraha, assistant|
|2018 - present||Josh Berraha, associate|
|2015-2018||Susan Landau, assistant|
|2018 - present||Stephanie Crawley, assistant|