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B'nai Amoona's Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose


By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light, posted August 23, 2010

Like most rabbinic contracts, the one just signed by Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose has an option for renegotiated renewal at the end. But the rabbi has a little time to consider his options.

About two decades in fact.

"It's truly humbling because in this day and age I don't think this happens all that often," he said.

This month, Congregation B'nai Amoona secured Rose's rabbinic services for 21 additional years. Set to begin at the conclusion of his current seven-year arrangement in 2012, the new agreement will cover the 43-year-old spiritual leader of one of the nation's largest Conservative congregations through to age 65. The offer was recommended unanimously by the synagogue's board of trustees and passed June 7 with no dissenting votes at an open meeting of the congregation, said Cindy Schuval, a vice-president of B'nai Amoona.

"I think we all feel that the direction he's taken the shul in the last five years is the direction in which we all want to go," Schuval said. "Everybody loves him. He's a visionary. He's progressive. He just makes everyone feel very comfortable and we just want to make sure that we have him for the long haul."

The contract also closes the book on a period of uncertainty for the Creve Coeur synagogue that began with the departure of longtime Rabbi Eric Cytryn in 2003. Rabbi Leonard Cahan and later, the late Rabbi emeritus Bernard Lipnick helped fill the leadership gap until Rose's 2005 arrival. Rose's new contract will take him through 2033.

"The strength of B'nai Amoona has traditionally been with a leader that the community felt a strong connection with and that's what we were looking for," said Marc Lapp, congregation president. "When people throw candy at a girl after her bat mitzvah performance, it's important that the rabbi can say to her that the next time people throw candy at her will be at her auf-ruf and he'll be there to officiate at her wedding."

Lapp said that making the move was a natural choice for the 128-year-old shul.

"I think we recognized that he is a special and talented rabbi whose presence is just so positive for the congregation," he said. "The stability, continuity and vibrancy of the organization would be the three things that we considered closely when we talked about whether we wanted to commit for so long."

Rose said he was honored by the move and looks forward to extending his stay in St. Louis noting that family played an important role in the choice. The rabbi made the decision in consultation with his wife Paulie with whom he will celebrate 15 years of marriage later this month. The Roses have four children aged 6 to 12 and felt this was the right place to raise them.

"My children are blessed with wonderful aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers in the congregation," he said. "So many have adopted them and made them feel at home. There are so many who have extended themselves beyond the call of duty in remarkable ways. To us that just feels like family and community."

Recent events also figured in Rose's choice. The example of Lipnick, a major figure in the B'nai Amoona's history, who was associated with congregation from 1951 until his death in April had an important influence on the present rabbi.

"His untimely passing had a tremendous impact on me," Rose noted. "It said to me that if you really want to help people find meaning, consequence, spirituality, Godliness in Judaism then you've got to be with them for a long period of time. St. Louis is the kind of community where that can happen."

Rose said bolstering a sense of inclusiveness has been a major part of his rabbinate over the first five years. He also cited musical innovations, a more upbeat liturgy and a focus on Jewish education as being among B'nai Amoona's recent achievements. His future goals include a continued focus on financial stability and increasing the $7 million endowment which helps maintain the shul's expansive 33-acre Mason Road campus.

"The congregation is poised for some wonderful growth at this time," he said. "I believe that the challenge for most synagogues is to maintain both a sense of tradition and a sense of innovation and creativity, to hold onto the past and yet recognize that we live at a time of great seismic changes to the Jewish community."

B'nai Amoona, a congregation of about 775 families also has two adjunct rabbis, Josef A. Davidson and Barry R. Friedman. Lapp said that by securing Rose the shul may spend the coming months gearing up to consider the addition of a permanent assistant rabbi.

In 2011, Rose will go on a year-long sabbatical and his father Rabbi Neal Rose, another rabbi with connections to the area, will return to the congregation to keep things running smoothly.

A native of New York, Carnie Rose grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His resume includes a number of honors including the Talmud Prize from the Jewish Theological Seminary where he was ordained. His previous rabbinates include stints in Ohio, New York and Tokyo, Japan.

Still, no matter where he's gone, one story sticks with him. In it, Elijah has a contest with the false prophets of Baal. When fire comes from heaven and Elijah wins the duel, the people do not credit Elijah but instead they chant that God is God.

"Whenever I read that passage I come to the same conclusion, that the work that we do as rabbis short-term or long-term is not so that we should be aggrandized or enhanced or enshrined," he said. "It's about getting people to see that God is truly God. I hope that the contract comes to an end people won't say ‘Carnie was a great rabbi' but that he led us in the direction of experiencing Godliness and holiness."

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