First full-time Rabbi at Temple Sukkat Shalom

By August 30, 2011Spirit

Dov Gartenberg will be the first year-around Jewish Rabbi in Juneau.

He says Dov is pronounced like the bird or the past tense of dive – and he goes by either.

“In Hebrew it’s pronounced Dov. If anyone reads the book of Exodus, it’s one of the main characters; but Dov means bear. In moving up here I’m in my natural habitat,” Gartenberg says.

Juneau’s Jewish community did not call Gartenberg to be its rabbi, though he’s been a practicing rabbi for years. Instead, he moved to Juneau because his wife has taken a position at Bartlett Regional Hospital. The congregation, which has only had temporary rabbis for special holidays, convinced Gartenberg to become the year-round spiritual leader of Temple Sukkat Shalom.

“The word ‘rabbi’ means teacher in Hebrew. A rabbi is someone who teaches Torrah. It literally means ‘instruction,’ but is the Jewish scriptural tradition – which is different than the Christian tradition,” Gartenberg explains. “We share with the Christian tradition the Bible, at least the Hebrew Bible, but we also have what we call rabbinical literature. We are interpreters of that tradition to the Jewish community and to the broader world, whether the rabbi is in Juneau or Jerusalem.”

Jewish congregations are autonomous and not part of any hierarchy. Gartenberg says he has no plans to overhaul Juneau’s Jewish community practices. The congregation has had a religious school and year-around programs for many years and acquired its own building in 2005.

“What I will do is strengthen what they already have, and bring some rabbinical leadership that they haven’t had year around,” Gartenberg says.

Temple Sukkat Shalom is located at 211 Cordova Avenue in West Douglas. It is the only synagogue in Southeast Alaska.

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