Rabbi Bernard Gerson, who concludes a 25-year pulpit career next month, has been honored by his synagogue and his flock. We should like to offer a different perspective and retrospective.
Rabbi Gerson played a major role in changing the tone of intra-rabbinic relations in Denver. His non-combative, unruffled style, which relies more on thought, kindness and scholarship than on emotion and public jousting, has been so effective that the confrontational style of the past has long faded. In significant part, Rabbi Gerson is responsible for that.
He has served more than one term as president of the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council, and in that position has guided the community rabbinic voice through many sensitive moments, such as when Israel was at war. Rabbi Gerson has quietly nurtured personal relationships with clergy of other faiths, serving as an address for questions and concerns. All this has been done without fanfare, and precisely on that account has been effective, with long lasting results.
Rabbi Gerson gets around, appearing in synagogues of other denominations when he has time, and always in a friendly, non-ideological way. He neither perceives slights where none are intended nor slights others, regardless of their religious commitments.
He has also extended himself beyond the synagogue walls by teaching for many years at Denver Jewish Day School and, simply, by opening his classes to others, whether they were members of Rodef Shalom or elsewhere.
Rabbinic leaders with a different style of community leadership are important. In the nature of things they command their own attention. The more laid back style of Rabbi Gerson deserves a nod of appreciation for its effectiveness. We gratefully offer that nod of appreciation here.
Now that Rabbi Gerson is about to undertake a new career in health management, we trust that his effectiveness in the rabbinate will readily translate to this increasingly important societal realm. We wish him, his wife Sue and his family all good luck as he steps ahead.
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