A community celebration at Mall of America will include the finishing of a special Torah
By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor
“And all who are involved faithfully in the needs of their community, may the Holy One, Blessed be He, pay their reward…”
— from the Shabbat morning liturgy
Adath Israel Synagogue in St. Paul will present Celebration 50, a community-wide gala event honoring Rabbi Asher and Sema Zeilingold for 50 years of dedicated leadership and guidance, on Feb. 23 at Mall of America. The evening will include the completion of the yearlong writing of a special Sefer Torah (holy Torah scroll), which was commissioned in honor of the Zeilingolds.
Rabbi Zeilingold, a disciple of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Scheerson, is the longest-serving pulpit rabbi in Minnesota. He and his wife, Sema, arrived in April 1966 to lead the new Adath Israel in Highland Park — which had been formed by the merger of three shuls from St. Paul’s West Side.
“I had just come out of seminary, married two years and I’d just received by rabbinical degree,” Zeilingold told the AJW in a recent phone interview. “I was not looking specifically to be a pulpit rabbi; I did want to do something in the area of Jewish education and outreach.”
Adath Israel gave Zeilingold a salary of $100 per week for the first year. The young couple moved into an apartment near Cleveland Avenue and Ford Parkway that rented for $95 per month.
“At the end of the year, we said we’ll stay and the rest is history,” Zeilingold said. “Now we’re up to 50 years and still moving on.”
He stressed that this event is not intended as a retirement dinner.
In addition to his duties as a pulpit rabbi, Zeilingold directs UMKosher (United Mehadrin Kosher), certifying kosher food facilities and teaching about kashrut (kosher laws). He also served as the chaplain to Minnesota state hospitals during the administration of Gov. Rudy Perpich, and has written the AJW’s “Torah Thought for the Week” column since 1982 (the column is sponsored by Adath Israel).
Adath Israel maintains a stable membership of about 200 families. Services are held 365 days per year and the congregation offers a full measure of programming for adults and children. Zeilingold described it as a “working and involved congregation.”
Zeilingold said Celebration 50 is intended as a celebration of himself and his family, and his congregation, but it’s also a meaningful event for the wider Twin Cities Jewish community.
“I do consider this to be a milestone for further growth for my own part and for the congregation,” Zeilingold said. “We found challenges along the way, but there is certainly a great desire on the part of young people to be more involved in what we teach: full commitment to Torah and to feel in their own lives that through Torah, we have a focus on life, we have a purpose in life, and certainly a greater measure of meaning and significance to life as we continue for many good, long and happy years together.”
The community-wide Celebration 50, honoring Rabbi Asher and Sema Zeilingold, will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at Mall of America in Bloomington. Registration will begin at 5 p.m.
The completion of the holy Torah scroll will begin at 5:15 p.m. in the mall’s fourth-floor executive center. The dinner and program will take place at 6 p.m. in the mall’s meeting and event center, suite 402.
For information and to register, visit: www.celebration50.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Adath Israel Synagogue at 651-698-8300, option 3.
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