Congregation Beth Shalom holds installation ceremony for Rabbi Bochner

Rabbi Shalom Bochner was installed Sunday to lead Congregation Beth Shalom of Modesto.

Congregation members formed a human connection during the ceremony to offer their blessing to Bochner, who has served the synagogue in an interim capacity for two years.

City and county officials and other faith leaders attended the celebration for a rabbi who intends to expand the synagogue’s role in the greater community.

In keeping with a tradition of the Jewish faith, Bochner closed out the ceremony by blowing the shofar, or ram’s horn, a musical instrument that dates to biblical times.

“Being a rabbi means different things to different people,” Bochner said during his remarks. “For me, it means being a teacher and community organizer.”

Sid Israels recounted the 93-year history of Congregation Beth Shalom. He said the synagogue was established by Jewish families who came to Modesto from different parts of the world. Members of the congregation became business leaders, elected officials and legal professionals in Stanislaus County.

Being a rabbi means different things to different people. For me, it means being a teacher and community organizer.

Rabbi Shalom Bochner

The keynote speaker, Rabbi Chai Levy of Congregation Kol Sofar of Tiburon, shared some insights about Bochner.

She said Bochner is famous for leading groups on camping trips. He creates a sense of adventure by taking hikers to the top of volcanoes and encouraging them to swim in cold mountain lakes. Every morning he gets up early to make breakfast for the campers, she said.

Levy and Bochner are in a band. He plays the guitar and drums.

“The drummer keeps the beat and keeps the group together,” said Levy, who described the rabbi as an adventurer, drummer, lover of Torah and omelet maker.

Bochner previously worked as an eighth-grade Judaic studies teacher at Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Francisco and was rabbinical director at Alma Retreats in Berkeley.

He has extensive experience working with young people at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Yavneh Day School in Los Gatos; and United Synagogue in Seattle.

Congregation Beth Shalom serves the Jewish community in a region stretching from Stockton to Fresno and from the Sierra foothills to Livermore. Congregants approved a two-year contract for Bochner by a unanimous vote.

The rabbi believes Jewish life and culture revolves around the synagogue. But he hopes to expand its role by inviting the community to events and bringing groups on city art walks.

“It is just an amazing time for us,” said board member Janet Rasmussen. “He is an incredible leader and an excellent teacher.”

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321