Congregation Beth Tikvah Hires Lizzie Horne Mozes as New Rabbi

Rabbi Lizzie Horne Mozes (Courtesy of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College)

Rabbi Lizzie Horne Mozes, 32, needs a full-time job after graduating from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in May.

Congregation Beth Tikvah, located in Marlton, New Jersey, needs a new spiritual leader after the departure of Rabbi Nathan Weiner over the summer.

It seems like a match. And now, it is one: Horne Mozes started in her position on Aug. 1.

Except, this relationship is still in its feeling-out phase. Horne Mozes and Beth Tikvah, a Conservative congregation, have committed to each other for 1-2 years, according to both parties. The freshly ordained rabbi used the interim label before her own title.

The millennial is looking for her start after spending years in the nonprofit space with organizations like the American Jewish World Service, which worked to combat domestic violence in India. The synagogue is taking its time trying to find the right replacement for Weiner, who served for seven years. Before Weiner, Rabbi Gary Gans led the shul from 1981-2016.

Beth Tikvah has 230 member units, according to Aaron Pollock, the chair of the rabbinical search committee. Five years ago, it had 189. The congregation has grown due to interest from young families in the Tikvah Learning Community.

The synagogue started in a ranch house in 1976 with 12 families. They named it Beth Tikvah, which means “house of hope” in Hebrew. Now, members again have reason to look ahead.

“I care about organizational sustainability,” Horne Mozes said. “What does it mean to be in community?”

Beth Tikvah has not yet committed to its new rabbi. But that does not mean that leaders and congregants were not impressed by her during her interview process.

Pollock liked her resume. He thought it said a lot about Horne Mozes that she wanted to spend time in India helping victims. But then the rabbi visited the Marlton synagogue, and the search chair saw that she was more than a resume. She listened to congregants and tried to get to know them.

“She has empathy. She’s poised. She’s intelligent,” he said. “She’s ready to do the work with us. There’s a genuineness about her. She really does care.”

For her part, the rabbi found the shul to be “Hamish.” Horne Mozes liked that it was “not too big” and “not too small.” The rabbi also enjoys kibitzing with Jews from older generations and with Jews from her own generation.

As a 32-year-old with a husband and baby, Horne Mozes is part of the young family group that is keeping Beth Tikvah afloat.

“We have a burgeoning Hebrew school. Lots of younger parents. Lots of young kids who are excited about their Judaism,” she said. “That makes me feel excited about mine.”

But many of those families joined because of Weiner, according to Pollock. Now, it will be on the new rabbi to help convince them that Beth Tikvah is still their synagogue.

But the search committee chair is confident in Horne Mozes. She will just have to do what she’s good at: listen, reflect, care.

“Be present with us,” Pollock said. “Her ability to care will help us define who we are and move forward.”

And that is all that the rabbi plans on doing during her interim period.

“I think that my curious leadership style is one that will invite input from a lot of different people,” she said. “I’d love to see where everyone is coming from and meet them where they are.”

Beth Tikvah members recently completed a program called “Congregational Conversations,” according to Pollock. It was a candid discussion about “who we are as a synagogue and what our needs are.”

“We’re growing. We got a lot of younger families coming in. I don’t know if we know who we are right now,” Pollock said. “I think it does help that Rabbi Lizzie is around the same age as our younger congregants. She can make that connection to the next generation and be the role model to those families.”

Beth Tikvah can keep Horne Mozes for up to two years, according to Pollock. If the synagogue wants to commit to its rabbi at that point, it will need approval from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. The shul is affiliated with the USCJ and Horne Mozes, as an RRC graduate, is not a rabbi in the Conservative movement.

But if the feeling-out phase leads to strong feelings, “I see no reason to not consider her,” Pollock concluded.

“With having a baby and being a recent graduate, this is what felt most like a fit,” Horne Mozes said.

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