CHESHIRE — The reform synagogue Temple Beth David in downtown Cheshire will welcome a new rabbi in July. Rebecca Gutterman was selected to replace interim rabbi Leah Benamy, who was filling in following the leave of former Rabbi Micah Ellenson after serving the congregation for four years.
Gutterman is a second-generation rabbi, her father having served as the leader of Temple Beth-El in Providence, Rhode Island for 40 years. Having a background in teaching, working with children, music and performance, Guttermen is enthusiastic about getting to lead a vibrant Jewish congregation and revitalizing the synagogue as they grapple with the challenges facing many centers of faith post-pandemic.
Already Gutterman has made trips to Cheshire to meet the congregation, directors of the synagogue’s religious school, and familiarize herself with the community, where she will be moving alongside her husband and seven-year-old son.
She was chosen by the synagogue’s search committee from a pool of eight other candidates and approved unanimously by the congregation. The members of the committee were taken by Gutterman’s vision for the future of their temple community and the partnerships she wants to forge across Cheshire.
“What I love thus far about Temple Beth David, and I haven't even started yet, is that there is a warmth that really radiates from the community and it comes from someplace real. At its core, this is a down-to-earth community,” Gutterman said. “There is a sense in which they are just poised for exciting changes and exciting work ahead post-pandemic, which was a real struggle for most religious communities and their leaders as well. It feels to me like this synagogue, as well as having a rich history in the area, is also poised to come back even stronger, poised to begin again in some important ways.”
One of the most important things for Gutterman is to continue to foster that sense of community in the synagogue, to build an environment that’s welcoming to families and people from all walks of life. Building on her passion for education, she also aims to work closely with the Religious School in the temple to create enriching programs for the children, which helps them build a love for not only their faith but the world around them.
Over time Gutterman also wishes to foster a greater inter-faith dialogue not only between other synagogues in the area but other faiths as well — falling in line with the temple’s mission to be open and receptive to those from other faiths and backgrounds.
“We really just took to her. And she just was so engaged, she met some of our community, congregational leaders, and they just all felt that she was very intelligent and really seemed to get what she would need to do to help us enhance an already strong community, but just keep us going on that right path that we're going to continue to grow and regroup as well after the pandemic,” said Mindy Fricke, chair of the temple’s search committee. “We're already ready to hit the ground running.”
Gutterman will officially begin her tenure on July 1st, and the synagogue’s transition team is already working to ensure a smooth transfer of leadership. She plans to be a part of the religious community at Temple Beth David for years to come.
“I'm especially enthusiastic about adapting some of the creative or out-of-the-box things that I've done when it comes to teaching or to service leading in a way that speaks to this community,” Gutterman said.
More information about the synagogue can be found online on its website, https://www.tbdcheshire.org/, and Facebook page.