By Adam Grobman
In Summer 2020, Rabbi Ariana Capptauber became Beth El Temple Harrisburg’s first woman rabbi.
Now, nearly two years later, she will officially be installed in the role, with a weekend of programming and events celebrating the milestone from May 13 - 15.
A rabbinic installation is typically held when a relationship between a rabbi and their congregation is new. “It’s a time where the congregation formally recognizes a new rabbi as its spiritual leader,” Rabbi Ariana Capptauber says.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic making large gatherings unmanageable at the beginning of her tenure, Rabbi Capptauber sees the silver lining of holding this event now.
“We waited because we wanted a big celebration for the whole congregation,” she says. “It’s kind of nice to have this two years in, because now I really know the congregation and have a real sense of what my role is here at Beth El.”
Programming for the weekend has been planned through a ten-person committee chaired by Renee Jacobson.
“Rabbi Capptauber has been part of our community for twenty-two months and it’s wonderful to celebrate the transformation that the synagogue has undergone in that time period,” Renee says. “She has been very creative in leveraging the technology we have to be able to keep the community and congregation involved.”
The weekend’s events will begin with a Shabbat Service on Friday evening, featuring musical guest Deborah Sacks Mintz, an educator and facilitator of Jewish communal music.
“Music plays such an important role in the communal spirituality that I’ve been trying to bring to the community,” Rabbi Capptauber says. “We’ve introduced ‘egg shakers’ at services, so there’s a little more rhythm and musicality – Debra is really talented at elevating that even more through her skills and methods as a musician.”
Saturday Morning’s Shabbat service will include Rabbi Gordon Tucker, Vice Chancellor for Religious life and Engagement at Jewish Theological Seminary. Tucker, a mentor to Rabbi Capptauber, will formally install her during this service.
Following Shabbat, the congregation will reconvene for a formal cocktail hour, Havdalah service, and concert.
“I’m excited to be in a celebratory environment with all of Beth El and come together as a community to have a party,” Rabbi Capptauber says. “That’s something that we haven’t gotten to do in a long time.”
The theme of the weekend is Cultivate Tomorrow Together, which incoming synagogue President Rhea Swidler says reflects the events of the weekend, including the Annual Meeting where new officers will be installed.
“It’s a nice refreshing, new beginning,” Rhea says. “I want the synagogue to continue to be here for the next generation and Rabbi Capptauber is an important part of that future.”
Current Beth El President Rick Leiner echoed Rhea’s sentiments. “She’s come in and given a younger perspective to the way we celebrate Judaism – she’s brought a lot of different aspects to the table,” Rick says. “Her bright, open personality and caring has really been contagious amongst all of us in the congregation.”
Community members can participate in the theme of the weekend by donating in honor of Rabbi Capptauber to Beth El’s Green Initiative Fund. Rabbi Capptauber’s passion for green initiatives inspired the theme, and the fund will be used for future sustainability projects.
“I hope that this is not only a celebration of what has been so far, but a forward-looking event that will build a lot of momentum at Beth El and the Harrisburg community at-large for more fun and more celebration of good and joyful things.”
Join in the celebration of Rabbi Ariana Capptauber’s installation at Beth El Temple! Programming includes:
Friday, May 13 – 6pm – Shabbat Service with Musical Guest Deborah Sacks Mintz
Saturday, May 14 – 10am – Shabbat Service & Installation with guest speaker Rabbi Gordon Tucker
8:15pm Dessert Cocktail Hour, followed by Havdalah and Concert
Sunday, May 15 – 10am – Beth El Annual Meeting & Program
Friday night service is open to all. To inquire about attending Saturday and Sunday programming, please contact Bill Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org.