FREEDOM – Temple El Emeth has named Rabbi Seth Sternstein as its new rabbi following the recent retirement of Rabbi Joseph Schonberger.
Sternstein, who started Aug. 1, said he came to Temple El Emeth after his previous synagogue closed and that he and his wife, Marsha, moved to Euclid, where they now reside. He says he quickly learned of the opening at Temple El Emeth.
“There was a list of synagogues that needed rabbis and Temple El Emeth was one of them, so I applied,” he said.
His wife, whose maiden name is Friedman, is from Cleveland Heights.
For the past 15 years, Sternstein has served as the rabbi of Yorktown Jewish Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.
“My wife’s family ties come from the Youngstown area. His great-uncle Joe Friedman brought the Friedman family to the area. Every time we used to visit here, we would walk through Youngstown and smile at his family’s connection here. So when I saw the synagogue opening in Youngstown, I told my wife I was applying, and later found out I was selected,” said Sternstein.
Sternstein said many of his family members served as pulpit rabbis, including his father and two uncles.
He started working as an accountant after earning an MBA from Iona University in New York. Sternstein also rendered services as a cantor during the high holidays.
Sternstein said he quickly decided he didn’t want to be an accountant but rather a rabbi. He said his wife supported his decision. He attended rabbinical school and was a full-time cantor at the Westchester Jewish Center on Long Island.
“There are many aspects that bring me joy in doing this. I enjoy teaching Torah keeping and Jewish values to people of all ages and exploring Jewish wisdom,” said Sternstein.
Sternstein will meet the congregation and the public at a picnic and get-together this week. He has been at Temple El Emeth since mid-July.
“The people I have met have been warm and friendly and very welcoming to me and my wife. I am very happy to be here and look forward to a long association. he said.
Sternstein said he is learning about the congregation and operations at Temple El Emeth.
He said many Conservative Jewish synagogues now face declining populations.
“No one can predict the future. My goal is to serve a community and bring Torah values to them. We are a traditional conservative synagogue with traditional Jewish values,” said Sternstein.
He said the synagogue has brought in many high-profile guest speakers from across the country, including recently former Ohio health director Dr. Amy Acton, who spoke at the Jewish Community Center.
“We will have many more speakers in the future. I will focus on ensuring that the synagogue has a strong future ahead of it and that people find meaning in the programming and religious services and activities that are offered,” said Sternstein.
He said he planned to meet with other religious leaders in the area and those from the local Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Center. Sternstein said he is preparing for the major holidays with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this fall.
In his free time, Sternstein said he enjoys walking, especially around Lake Erie and in area parks. He also practices choral singing.