Two-rabbi family finds home — and work — in St. Louis

BY KEREN DOUEK, ASSISTANT EDITOR

Rabbi Amy Feder and Rabbi Michael Alper moved into University City in May, and their house is conveniently centered between Temple Israel — where Feder is the new assistant rabbi — and Central Reform Congregation — where Alper is working as the interim director of education.

Alper is originally from Los Angeles, Calif., but has lived all over the country, most recently in New York.

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Alper attended Boston University, and then Hebrew Union College, in New York, where he met Feder, who was also a student at HUC.

Feder is a native St. Louisan who grew up as a member of Temple Israel and often came back to work as an intern for the high holidays.

“She came here as an intern and had distinguished herself,” said Temple Israel’s senior rabbi, Mark Shook. “There was general agreement across the congregation that if it ever became possible we should make an effort to retain her service, and we are very fortunate to have done so.”

Shook said Feder was the obvious choice, as she is “a native St. Louisan, a brilliant student, a great teacher, and she has very special qualities.”

Feder said they were looking into their options and realized as a clergy couple it would be a challenge to find work together.

“When we learned Temple Israel was looking for another rabbi, and that there might be an opening in education at CRC, we decided to pursue our options here,” Feder said.

Alper had already visited St. Louis while working on a teen tour with the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute — a project for the Union of Reform Judaism. The camp traveled throughout the Midwest and participated in community service projects at different synagogues, including a stop at CRC.

Alper said the group “slept on the floor here and stayed up late and told stories, but we spent a lot of time working on their food pantry, and many had a very powerful experience here, myself included.”

Alper said he also had a chance to work with Rabbi Susan Talve, and get a feel for the congregation.

“I was very drawn to the core values of the synagogue, and of the work Susan does for the community, and because the kids had such a great experience and because I had such a great experience it was the first thing I thought of when I thought of St. Louis, and it was kind of like a second home waiting for me … I was very fortunate.”

Feder too said she feels very lucky “to have been given a position in a congregation I already know and love.”

“I feel that gives me a great advantage in that I am already connected to the congregation, and many of their goals are the same as mine.”

Feder said the hope is for Temple Israel to be a vibrant place where families both young and old are welcome. She said she also hopes to bring some new music to the congregation, and plans to work a lot with the youth there.

Shook said he thinks Feder will be “a terrific asset, not only to the congregation, but to the community.”

Keren Douek is an assistant editor and can be reached at [email protected]