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Rabbi Mel Glazer serves a dually affiliated congregation

Rabbi Mel GlazerOriginally, from Atlanta, Rabbi Mel Glazer received a degree in philosophy and Hebrew literature in a double degree program at Columbia and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Glazer received a masters in Judaica from JTS and was ordained in 1974.

He was a rabbi in Canada from 1992-1995. In 1995, he received his doctorate in grief and mourning from the Princeton Theological Seminary.  Glazer has served at Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs for four years.

He is married to Ellen Mossman Glazer, a behavioral coach for young children. They have four children, Avi, Elan, Shoshi and Rafi.

RABBI Mel Glazer first found his passion for Judaism as a camper at Ramah in the Poconos. Initially sent by his late rabbi and role model, Rabbi Harry H. Epstein, Glazer went on to spend 20 summers at Ramah camps, attend Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Pennsylvania and ultimately be ordained.

Glazer tries to pass on a Jewish education to others the way it was offered to him.

A grief counselor and author, Rabbi Glazer has served as the rabbi of congregations in Michigan, Tennessee, New Jersey, Canada, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania and, now, Colorado.

As senior rabbi of Temple Shalom, which is dually affiliated with both Conservative and Reform members, Glazer’s congregation has 220 families. He strives to create a community of members who support each other like family regardless of differences in affiliation.

Q: What brought you to Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs?

A: After I wrote my book, And G-d Created Hope, I was looking for a position where I could have a little challenge.

I was interested in Temple Shalom because of its dual affiliation with Conservative and Reform Judaism after two synagogues merged. Friday night we pray from the Reform prayer book and Saturday we use the Conservative text.

Temple Shalom was interesting and intriguing, and my intuition was right. It is one of the most interesting synagogues I have ever had the honor of leading.

Q: Why lead a dually affiliated congregation?

A: It is a lot of fun being a rabbi here. There are only about 15 dually affiliated congregations across the country, but we are the synagogue of the future because of the way society works.

I get the opportunity to shape one community with various traditions. That is the theological reward for me. It doesn’t matter to me if you say you are Reform or Conservative, you are a part of my community.

Every synagogue has its Friday night members and its Saturday morning members; in that sense we are the same. But we also honor the two different streams of Judaism under one shul.

Not everyone believes the same thing or observes the same way, and in that regard we are like every other synagogue in the world.

Sometimes it is a challenge, but we find a way to celebrate, mourn, do mitzvah projects together — we are a real family. We have gone beyond cliques because we understand that in the end we are all Jews.

Q: In a congregation that is supposed to unite Jews, how do you appeal to different denominations under one roof?

A: We respect each other and we understand that no two Jews are the same.

We are equal but not identical. Different traditions, backgrounds, keep us working hard.

We talk it all out and increase the number of options for families. We recently had a Bar Mitzvah for a Reform family, and the ceremony was accepted and honored by the Reform and Conservative members of the congregation. Even though not all Reform families would have had the ceremony, everyone was supportive.

Q: What has been going on at Temple Shalom?

A: We are proud to have just celebrated our 40th anniversary. Many here say we wandered in the desert for 40 years and made it to the Promised Land and I believe that.

We just started a group for young Jewish professionals and already have 16 members who plan their own Jewish programs. We recently invited them over for a Havdalah under the stars.

We have a senior hot lunch program two days a week that was just endowed in perpetuity by a family who understands the importance of our seniors.

There are always Bar Mitzvahs, conversions and classes going on here. I also recently opened a chevra kadisha in Colorado Springs.

This past June I went to a Melton graduation where our members made up 30% of the graduating class.They understand the importance of education for a Jew.

Q: What is your underlying goal as a rabbi?

A: To teach more of my members how to conduct services, read from the Torah and raise the level of their Jewish observance.

Q: What does it take to achieve that goal?

A: I have to give up going home early; there is too much to do.

Q: Colorado Springs is known for being very conservative politically. What is your relationship with the rest of the community?

A: We are well respected by our religious community. I serve as the co-chair on the board of the Center for Christian-Jewish dialogue. There are 25 members on the board who come from different religions. We present a major program to the community once a year where we bring in renowned scholars to talk about faith and how you live together and respect each other’s different religions, opinions and positions.

Q: What is the biggest difference for a rabbi in a city with a small Jewish community?

A: Sorting out my priorities for my congregants and for the community as Colorado Springs’ rabbi.

Both the Jewish and non-Jewish community is always reaching out to me. If there is someone Jewish in a hospice that needs a rabbi, I get the call. Even for non-members in the area, I get the call. If a school wants someone to talk about Judaism, I get the call.

I enjoy that; sometimes I have to make choices and sometimes I have to say no because my congregation takes priority.

My congregation also wants me to be the community rabbi, and I am honored that they trust and sanction me to do that.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of rabbinical work?

A: Leading Shabbat services and counseling members about issues that cause them pain or difficulty. The fact that I am a grief therapist helps me do that.  I am also the chazzan for the congregation. I love Jewish music and I love being both the rabbi and the chazzan.

Q: Who inspires you?

A: My father died when I turned 12 and Rabbi Harry Epstein, who had no sons, became my spiritual father. I guess that is the path I am on now — I want to be other people’s spiritual father and help them walk toward getting closer to G-d and other Jews.

Q: What is your favorite Jewish lesson?

A: In the 23rd psalm it says, “I will not fear evil, for You are with me.” “You” means G-d, but I interpret it to mean you, and you, and you and you.

It teaches me that I do not have to be afraid because there is a community that supports and cares about me, including G-d, my family, my friends and my congregants.

That allows me to live my life without being afraid to die. I have a community and because of them, my life is blessed.

Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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