Rabbi Feder named Shook’s successor

Congregants at Congregation Temple Israel ratified on Sunday the Board of Trustees’ election of Rabbi Amy Feder as the new senior rabbi. More than 300 people attended the meeting, and a temple spokeswoman said the vote was “overwhelmingly” in favor of ratification.

Feder said she is honored and thrilled. “The feeling in the sanctuary today was so positive-the excitement was palpable,” Feder said Sunday afternoon. “Looking around, I realized I knew everyone in the room, and I definitely feel like everyone is behind me.”

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According to the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Feder, 31, will become the youngest female rabbi to serve as senior rabbi of a large congregation in North America. Temple Israel, at Spoede and Ladue roads in Creve Coeur, has about 1,070 congregants.

Feder, only the seventh rabbi to lead Temple Israel in its 125-year history, will step into the job on July 1. She will succeed Rabbi Mark L. Shook, who has served as the senior rabbi of the congregation for 23 years. He will stay on at Temple Israel as rabbi emeritus.

“It’s great to know the congregation will be in good hands,” said Shook. “It was time for a change, and Amy is the right person for the job. Everyone at the meeting today was happy – the mood was great. The vote today allows us to plan for the future, and now we can all move forward.”

What does the future hold for the next senior rabbi? “That’s hard to say,” said Feder, who began working as an assistant rabbi at Temple Israel in 2006. “Some things will not change. My goal is certainly not to come in and turn everything on its head. Temple Israel has a wonderful history, and we have many traditions to continue.”

Rabbi Michael Alper, Feder’s husband, also serves at Temple Israel. “My vision – and Michael’s – for TI includes working on social justice, learning and making meaningful Jewish moments for people. It really does feel like a community there, a place where everyone knows your name, and now our goal will be to meet and talk with every single person about their visions and dreams for Temple Israel.”

Feder says she is calm about facing her new responsibilities. Dr. David Weinstein, president of the congregation, shared this story about her in a telephone interview: “When the rabbinic transition committee interviewed Amy, we asked if she was just a little bit nervous with the 13 of us in the room. She answered that she was not at all nervous, that she was excited, because she had been preparing for the interview for her entire life.”

Weinstein added that he knew that Feder meant what she said. “She grew up in our congregation, and she has always been connected with our congregation,” he said. Weinstein noted that Feder will bring “a feeling of great energy and spirituality as well as warmth and inclusiveness” to her new job.

Cary Mogerman, past president of the congregation and chair of the rabbinic transition committee, also was delighted with the congregation’s ratification. “We’re very excited that Rabbi Feder got the job,” he said Sunday. “We did a national search and evaluated 15 candidates from around the country who were interested in our congregation. We found that as competent and capable as they were, Rabbi Feder compared favorably to all of them. We realized we might have a winner right here already – and we did.”

Feder’s family has belonged to Temple Israel for four generations. She became both a bat mitzvah and a confirmand at Temple Israel. Feder is the daughter of Robin and Gary Feder of Clayton and the granddaughter of Joy and Albert Melman of Creve Coeur. Her sister, Jessica Gamlin, lives in Shrewsbury.

A graduate of Clayton High School, Feder attended the University of Michigan, where she studied music and Judaism. After graduating with high honors, she attended the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, where she was ordained and received a master’s degree in Hebrew literature.

Prior to coming to Temple Israel, Feder served in rabbinic and educational capacities in Jerusalem, Long Island and St. Louis, as well as several small towns throughout the southeastern United States. As part of her rabbinic training, she worked as a chaplain at New York University Hospital and taught at the Millers Honors High School program.

At Temple Israel, Feder has taught at the Deutsch Early Childhood Center and served as a liaison to several youth groups.

Feder and Alper are the parents of one-year-old Jonah Alper. The family lives in University City.