Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire joins Central Reform Temple (CRT) following Rabbi Howard A. Kosovske, who has served as interim rabbi since July 2020 after the retirement of our founding rabbi, Howard A. Berman.
After receiving the news of his appointment, Rabbi Shire said, “I am delighted to be invited to serve as spiritual leader of this warm and inclusive congregation with its roots in a radical liberal Judaism and its significant covenantal relationship with Emmanuel Church; a means to provide hope, inter-religious engagement and combined advocacy and action for our neighbors and our city.”
Michael Shire grew up in the U.K. in the Liberal Jewish Movement and studied for a BA Hons in Hebrew and Jewish studies at University College London. He subsequently enrolled at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York for a master’s in religious education and then a Ph.D. in Jewish education at HUC-JIR and University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Concurrently, he served as director of education at Temple Beth Hillel, a large Reform Temple in the San Fernando Valley. He returned to the U.K. to become director of the newly established Centre for Jewish Education and studied for rabbinic ordination at Leo Baeck College in London. Working as a Jewish educational leader, he served a number of part-time and High Holy Day pulpits in Britain and Ireland and he is currently the High Holy Day rabbi for the Oxford Jewish Centre in the U.K. In 2005, he became the full-time sabbatical replacement for the senior rabbi of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia, one of the largest Reform synagogues in the United States.
In 2011, Rabbi Shire and his family relocated back to the United States to take up the position of dean of the School of Jewish Education and chief academic officer at Hebrew College in Boston. In 2022, Rabbi Shire will assume the position of professor of Jewish education at Hebrew College as he takes on the part-time spiritual leadership of Central Reform Temple. He continues as the founder-director of Torah Godly Play, a Torah pedagogy based on his research on the spiritual life of children and as a trustee of The Pursuit of History, which sponsors History Camp Boston and other programs for history lovers.
Rabbi Shire is married to Rabbi Marcia Plumb, senior rabbi of Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Brookline. They have two adult children: Anya is a senior at Brandeis University majoring in studio art and psychology, and Micah is a second-year chemical engineering student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Temple president Richard A. Daynard said, “For CRT, the arrival of Rabbi Shire is a dream come true. He brings an extraordinary depth and breadth of knowledge, which he wears lightly, and has great personal warmth and kindness. With Rabbi Shire on board, we can bring new activities and new members to our thriving, progressive Newbury Street congregation.”
Rabbi Howard A. Kosovske will continue to serve the congregation as rabbi until his interim term expires in June 2022. Rabbi Kosovske has led the congregation as part-time rabbi through two years of change and preparation for welcoming a new rabbinic leader. His pastoral presence and experience as a trained interim has been vital to completing this successful rabbinic search. “It is exciting for me to be totally confident that I will be passing the mantle of CRT’s leadership to the inspiring and knowledgeable rabbi that I know Rabbi Shire to be,” said Rabbi Kosovske.
The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz, rector at Emmanuel Church, said: “On behalf of Emmanuel Church, I welcome Rabbi Shire to the honorary position of rabbi-in-residence. I look forward to working side by side with him as we lead our congregations in writing the next chapter in our remarkable story of deep interfaith collaboration. As congregational partners in a long-term covenant relationship, we practice modeling compassionate encounters between Judaism and Christianity that acknowledge the difficult challenges of history and aspire to new levels of understanding, while remaining faithfully rooted in our own distinct religious traditions. I’m confident that Rabbi Shire’s gifts of extensive scholarship and lived commitment to making spiritual and moral meaning through story, wonder and play will nourish and inspire our communities.”
Rabbi Devon Lerner, chair of the rabbinic search committee, said, “We are overjoyed to have Rabbi Shire join us to continue the legacy of radical inclusion that defines Central Reform Temple.” Services at CRT include traditional prayers in Hebrew and the rest of the service conducted predominately in English, welcoming Jews, interfaith families and spiritual seekers from all backgrounds. Shabbat services are held twice per month.
Rabbi Shire’s first Shabbat service as part-time rabbi of the congregation is Friday, July 1, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. Central Reform Temple of Boston meets on-site at Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St., Boston, and online in a multicast interactive format.
CRT met virtually from March 2020 until mid-July 2021, including producing two Passover seders and High Holy Days. Shabbat services, High Holy Day services and other congregational services will continue to be available interactively online, as well as on-site, to ensure that members who are mobility challenged, traveling or are based in other places are fully included in the life of Central Reform Temple of Boston.
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