At a special congregational meeting on Jan. 11, Pikesville’s Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom voted to approve Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi as the Reform temple’s senior rabbi.

The vote was preceded by the recommendation of the congregation’s board of trustees to hire Rabbi Sabath, who will serve as the first senior rabbi since the merger of Har Sinai and Temple Oheb Shalom in September of 2019.

The congregation is located at 7310 Park Heights Ave. Rabbi Jennifer Weiner currently serves as Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom’s interim senior rabbi.

“This is a joyous and historic moment in the life of our new congregation,” read a letter sent to the congregation by Debbi Jacobs and David Buchalter, co-chairs of the temple’s rabbinic search committee. “Rabbi Sabath joins us officially on July 1, 2021, bringing twenty-five years of rabbinic experience in a wide array of settings. She is a visionary rabbinic leader, a compassionate spiritual counselor, and an engaging teacher and public speaker. As both a congregational leader and an international scholar, Rabbi Sabath is primed to help us both live our mission and grow into the congregation that takes Baltimore’s Reform Jewish community to new heights.”

The letter stated that the rabbinic search committees reviewed more than 30 resumes and interviewed over 20 candidates “to find the rabbi with the skills and gravitas to ensure stability, excitement, and growth for our future.”

In an email to Jmore, Mina R. Wender, co-president of Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom, wrote, “I am thrilled to have Rabbi Sabath! She brings us great intelligence, determination, and a willingness to work with us to build our congregation. She also brings compassion, a drive for social justice, and a wonderful sense of humor.”

A Boston native who spent part of her childhood in Minneapolis and lived for 15 years in Israel, Rabbi Sabath currently serves Ohavay Zion Synagogue in Lexington, Ky., and lives in Cincinnati. She is a senior scholar at the Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood in Evanston, Ill. She previously served as an assistant professor of Jewish thought and ethics at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Temple Oheb Shalom Side
A merger of two historic Reform congregations, Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom is located at 7310 Park Heights Ave. (Photo by Solomon Swerling, Jmore)

In addition, Rabbi Sabath served as vice president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, a center of applied Jewish thought and education serving North America and Israel. Ordained at HUC in 1995, Rabbi Sabath received a doctorate in Jewish philosophy and theology at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary in 2009.

She is the co-author of two books, “Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days: A Guided Journal” (Jewish Publication Society) and “Striving Toward Virtue: A Contemporary Guide tfor Jewish Ethical Behavior” (Ktav Publishing). 

“At an early age I fell in love with the ideas and debates of the Jewish People and with our language and land,” Rabbi Sabath wrote on her website (rabbisabath.com). “I made Aliyah, married a fourth-generation Israeli [Rabbi Ofer Sabath Beit-Halachmi] and gave birth to three Israeli children. At the same time, I never lost sight of what my parents taught: we must each also be a citizen of the world concerned about all people, human society and our climate.”

In their letter to the congregation, Jacobs and Buchalter wrote, “As we celebrate today’s milestone, we look forward to helping Rabbi Sabath and her family transition to HSOSC and Baltimore later this year. We recognize that a thoughtful and intentional transition will help build a successful, long-term relationship with Rabbi Sabath and her family and have assembled a diverse and dedicated transition team to assist with this process.”