Kol Rinah to bid farewell to Fasmans during upcoming Shabbat service

Alice and Rabbi Mark Fasman

By Rebecca Ferman, Jewish Light staff writer

Congregation Kol Rinah Rabbi Emeritus Mark Fasman and his wife, Alice, are leaving St. Louis for Reno, Nevada, where he will become rabbi for Temple Emanu-El, the oldest Jewish congregation in the state. A special Shabbat service will be held at Kol Rinah at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 11 to say goodbye to the couple and celebrate their accomplishments.

“We’re very happy that he’s found a position in a smaller congregation,” said Kol Rinah President Mitch Shenker. “We couldn’t be happier for him.”

Fasman served as rabbi for Shaare Zedek Synagogue for the past 14 years, before becoming the first rabbi of Kol Rinah, which resulted from a merger between Shaare Zedek and Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel (BSKI) in 2012.  

He began his tenure in 2001, shortly before the tragic events of Sept. 11. A week later, when the congregation gathered to worship together for Rosh Hashanah services, he comforted worshippers with his now well-known shofar version of “Taps.” 

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The Fasmans have been praised for their overall positive influence on the congregation.

“He was very warm and compassionate and put so much time into being a rabbi,” said Shenker. “This was his first true pulpit… Shaare Zedek was the only place that he actually ever applied for a pulpit position where he was the main rabbi.  He and his wife were certainly both a valuable asset to the congregation and the Jewish community.”

Fasman said that he and his wife have both loved living in St. Louis, and will miss the connections they’ve made with so many people.

“As much as it’s nice to teach from the pulpit and lead services, the most powerful experiences are often one-on-one, or with families,” Fasman said. “I hope I’m not going to lose those people with whom I have developed those relationships and in most cases, will be leaving behind.”

When Fasman assumes his position in Reno in August, he hopes to draw new families to Temple Emanu-El, which previously has only had rabbis for a short period of time. 

“This is a small congregation, so one of the things I’m looking to do is to help the congregation to grow — to strengthen them and strengthen the community,” said Fasman. “I want to be able to bring a rabbinic presence to a congregation that, for a few years, has not had a rabbi.”

One of the biggest differences he noticed between the temple in Reno and the one in St. Louis is the length of time people have been members of the congregation.

“I haven’t yet identified a member of [Temple Emanu-El] who was born in Reno other than the children. It’s a community that people move to for school, work, or retirement, but it’s not a multi-generation kind of congregation or community,” he said. “I love the closeness of the St. Louis community, and I’m going to miss that. At the same time, I’ve experienced what it’s like to be less deeply rooted in a particular community for members of congregations who make their connections not so much in the past, but with each other in the present and the future.”

Music plays an important role for the Fasmans in both their personal and professional lives. Before going to rabbinical school, Rabbi Fasman was a music professor for about 16 years. The Fasmans both have advanced degrees in music from Indiana University; his is a doctorate, hers a master’s. Their love of music led them to co-author a songbook of original melodies for Kol Rinah used on Friday night services. 

Under Fasman’s leadership, the synagogue established several new programs for young families, including classes for anyone, at any level, interested in learning Hebrew and studying the Talmud.

Until her recent retirement, Alice Fasman was the director of choirs at Clayton High School for 12 years. She also helped with the choirs at Shaare Zedek and Kol Rinah. 

The Fasmans have one son, David, who is a corporate director of training and special projects for Kaldi’s Coffee. 

Kol Rinah, located at 829 N. Hanley Road, is currently under the leadership of Rabbi Noah Arnow, who joined in August. 

“We’re looking at making new changes under [Arnow] and under his new leadership,” said Shenker. “There are many things we’re considering. We will be presenting those as we finalize plans for various services and various initiatives in the community.”