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Rabbi at Winchester synagogue retires at 70

Rabbi Jonathan Brown
Rabbi Jonathan Brown has announced his retirement. Dennis Grundman/Daily (Buy photo)

Rabbi retirement
Dennis Grundman/Daily (Buy photo)

By Alex Bridges - abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- The city's only synagogue will have a new leader in July.

Beth El Congregation, located on Fairmont Avenue, has hired Rabbi Scott M. Sperling to replace Rabbi Jonathan Brown, who will retire after six years, according to a news release. Brown said Thursday that he planned to retire once he turned 70 years old.

"There really is no pressure for me to do anything except what I really want to do," Brown said.

Brown has looked at working as an interim rabbi for congregations in need of and which can afford someone to serve between permanent leaders. He also is trained as a chaplain.

"I went into congregation life because I like working with people," Brown recalled. "I liked to engage them in various aspects of life."

The rabbi joined the congregation as it celebrated its 50th anniversary. Beth El marked the seventh congregation for which he served since his ordination in 1967.

Now Beth El faces the challenge of staying together amid busy and changing lifestyles, Brown said. He spoke positively about his experience leading the congregation, and added that Beth El has a proud history in the community and could continue to grow.

"I would like to see them develop a vision ... that would galvanize people who are thinking about membership but just never got around to it ... haven't seen the relevance of a synagogue beyond raising their kids," Brown said, adding the congregation could try to attract more "empty-nesters."

Brown's successor, who he has known for some time, will "be a nice fit for the congregation," he said.

Sperling's tenure begins July 1. He led Chavurat Kol Shalom in Bainbridge Island, Wash., serving as president of the Washington Coalition of Rabbis and co-chairing a unity coalition for clergy of diverse faith, and served seven small congregations in the state, according to the release.

Sperling, ordained in 1976, holds a master of arts in Hebrew letters. He spoke at a rally on immigrant rights on the National Mall in Washington in 2006.

Brown belongs to the Winchester Rotary Club, the Winchester Torch Club and is president of the Child Advocacy Center of Winchester-Frederick County. Brown has served as an adjunct instructor at Shenandoah and Shepherd universities and as the 2006 prelate of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. The rabbi said he plans to continue his involvement with the local groups at least for the time being.


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