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The rabbi replies: Menachem Siderson, Aish of the Rockies

One of Denver’s newest rabbis, Menachem Siderson, joined Aish of the Rockies in August, 2020, as the rabbi of its synagogue. Even now, he admits, he is still learning the ins and outs of leading his congregational community in Greenwood Village, though he doesn’t have to go far when in need of a 411.

Rabbi Menachem Siderson

Rabbi Siderson’s wife of six years, Nechama, grew up as a congregant at Aish. Her parents, Rabbi Yaakov and Chaya Meyer, founded Aish, which means Siderson’s boss is his father-in-law.

“I had the blessing of coming to a community that knew me, that I was familiar with, in a new capacity,” says Siderson. “I have Rabbi Meyer nearby as a role model, as a mentor.”

“I’m only too happy to give him what I can,” Rabbi Meyer says.

Siderson grew up in Edmonton, Canada. He began studying at Yeshiva of Staten Island, NY, when he was 16.

“I knew I was interested in pursuing a career in some sort of klai kodesh, or community service, when I entered yeshiva. I didn’t necessarily plan on becoming a rabbi,” Siderson says. “I could have become a teacher. There were a lot of different avenues to consider.”

Siderson’s progression then took him to Yeshiva Ner Moshe in Jerusalem and Yeshiva BMG in Lakewood, where he met Nechama. They were married in 2015; by then Menachem had decided to focus on becoming a congregational rabbi.

In 2016, five weeks after the birth of their first child, Elisheva, they packed up and headed for Israel, where Menachem studied at the Center for Kehilla Development in Jerusalem, a five-year program to prepare him for the congregational rabbinate.

“We had our first baby here in Denver, and then we took off to Israel for four years,” says Siderson. “It was a total immersion in the world of rabbinical training.”

When the decision came in 2020 that Siderson would be the next pulpit rabbi at Aish, Siderson, then 28, was in the midst of the final stages in the CKD program.

So, Menachem and Nechama returned to the US in August, 2020, with their three kids in tow: Elisheva, now 5; Shalva, 3; and Yissochor, 2.

Shalva and Yissochor were both born in Jerusalem; and Yissochor was six weeks old when the family moved back to the US.

Already being a member of the Meyer family provided a built-in familiarity with Aish of the Rockies, aiding Siderson’s learning curve as the new rabbi of its synagogue.

“My role is to provide rabbinic guidance, and be very involved in the actual day to day running of the shul, in the minyan, giving sermons, and providing classes to different age groups.

“It is also the idea of really working on being a rabbinic figure that the community can turn to.”

At 30, Siderson has a youthful look about him. He is thoughtful beyond his years, and is often measured as he chooses his words carefully when referring to Aish’s recruitment and the resulting family dynamic.

“It’s a tightrope,” Siderson remembers feeling when the position was offered to him. “We were confident that we would be able to navigate everything.

“Thank G-d we have a fantastic relationship at Aish. Rabbi Meyer is so loving, so warm, so caring, so able to nurture.”

Officially, Meyer, 60, is Aish of the Rockies’ senior rabbi and CEO. Siderson’s exact title is Rabbi of The Shul. Rabbi Meyer is quick to address the “N” word.

Nepotism.

“The board knew that I really liked him, but he did it on his own merit,” says Meyer.

“There are a lot of rabbis who come back to the States, thinking that they’re equipped, but they’re like deer in the headlights for the first couple of years,” continues Rabbi Meyer. “Although Rabbi Siderson clearly still has a lot to learn and had a lot to learn when he first came here, he was much better equipped than the overwhelming majority of people who do come from Israel to take positions in the States.”

Meyer himself had intimate knowledge of the rabbinic “all in the family” system. His father-in-law was Rabbi Dr. Stanley Wagner, longtime rabbi at BMH-BJ. Wagner’s daughter Chaya is Aish’s events coordinator.

“He (Rabbi Wagner) would say to me, ‘I am so happy to share with you and know that you’re going to put it to good use,’” Meyer recalls. “And that’s how I feel about my son-in-law.”

Aish’s membership serves 225 households. 65% of the congregation is over the age 65, but in recent years there has been an infusion of more than 30 “young” families. A typical Shabbos morning service attracts about 150 congregants.

To accommodate the demographic range of Aish’s membership, Siderson leads a wide range of programs. He meets with “young dads” once a month. He also leads a “Deep Dive into the Aggadah” class.

What leader in our times doesn’t have a podcast? Siderson’s podcast is called “What’s a Jew to Do?”

As if Aish duties don’t keep him busy enough, Siderson is positioned to become a familiar face in the entire Denver Jewish community as somewhat of a rabbinic jack-of-all trades. Have a newborn son or grandson?

The rabbi is a trained mohel. In need of a custom mezuzzah or a Torah scroll? Siderson writes them; he trained in Israel to be a scribe.

“There are areas I had no idea I’d be involved in, that just took off,” says Siderson. “I get to help a lot of people.”

Being a mohel is especially rewarding. “It’s an awe-inspiring moment,” says Siderson. “It’s a huge blessing to be able to do this mitzvah for a family. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Next on the schedule: Siderson’s official installation at Aish on May 22. It would have been sooner if not for COVID.

“Although he’s a young man and he’s only 30, he really is very, very decorated with all his accomplishments,” says Zev Jacobs, Aish’s COO.

Nearing the “commemorative event, Rabbi Meyer says: ”He has many skills that I don’t have and did not have at his age. I love working with him.”

Of Meyer, Siderson says: “He has amazing sense of humor which I love, that gets us very far. We’re careful with making sure that we’re respecting each other’s space.

“We complement each other really well.”

Maybe the marquee at 9550 East Belleview should read: “Shabbos Family Affair.”

Copyright © 2022 by the Intermountain Jewish News



IJN Staff Writer | steve@ijn.com


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