New rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Reno |

New rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Reno

Provided to the Tribune

Congregation Temple Emanu-El in Reno, Northern Nevada’s first and most venerable conservative Jewish synagogue, announced today that Rabbi Jacob Benzaquen has been appointed as rabbi.

Benzaquen is doubly ordained, as an Orthodox rabbi in 1988 by the Kol YaaKov Torah Center in Monsey, N.Y., and as a Conservative rabbi in 2006 by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. He has a B.A. from Yeshiva University, N.Y., an M.A. from New York University, N.Y. and an M.A. from the University of Judaism in California. He is a respected scholar of the Talmud, the formidable compendium of traditional Jewish law that has formed the basis of Judaism and Jewish life and culture from the seventh century of the common era.

Benzaquen also holds a First Degree in Talmudic Law and was appointed to the Talmud faculty as lecturer while at the University of Judaism and taught at California State University in Northridge. He has pursued special interests in Jewish meditation, kabbalah and ancient Jewish mysticism.

Before joining Congregation Temple Emanu-El, Benzaquen served as rabbinic intern at Shomrei Torah Synagogue, a 700-family congregation in West Hills, as the Rabbi at Parkway Jewish Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., and at the celebrated Pelham Parkway Jewish Center in the Bronx, N.Y., where he was awarded the Bronx JCC 2000 Rabbinic Achievement award.

The congregation conducted its search for a new rabbi through the Rabbinic Assembly of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the organizing body for the Conservative movement, the second largest Jewish congregational grouping in the nation. The extensive, 14-month search process included goal definition and the completion of a detailed, introspective survey of the congregation’s structure, mission and resources.

Elli Mills, chairman of the search committee, said, “We are extremely fortunate to have come together with a spiritual leader who has such in-depth knowledge of Jewish law and tradition and great personal charisma.” Synagogue President Michele Beard echoed this and said, “Having someone with Rabbi Benzaquen’s exceptional background as our Rabbi, especially his voluminous knowledge of Torah, is a blessing. We look forward to his contributions in our Religious School, Youth and Adult Education programs and Religious Services.”

The rabbi plans to work with the synagogue’s transition committee to establish goals and priorities for the congregation. “The synagogue is poised to enter a new era of growth and vitality. I look forward to partnering with the lay leadership to realize our full potential for the benefit of our congregation, community and the greater Reno region,” Benzaquen said.

Benzaquen’s first official duties included conducting a late-night study session on June 1 in celebration of the holiday of Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the Jewish people’s revelation of God’s Torah and the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.

He began officiating at regular Sabbath services on June 2 at the synagogue and then traveled to New York to kick off the synagogue’s participation in the selective Baker Program for Synagogues of Excellence. He also conducted a double Pidyon Haben, the firstborn ceremony, for two grandchildren of congregants Professor Yaakov and Mirey Varol. This overlooked ritual has had powerful religious and spiritual significance through the centuries, symbolizing the Biblical commandment to redeem first-born sons from a required life-long dedication to the priesthood and the Jerusalem Temple.

Congregation Temple Emanu-El is the oldest Conservative Jewish synagogue in Northern Nevada and the only Conservative Jewish institution in the Reno/Tahoe region. With roots in the mid-19th century, the current congregation was organized in 1917 and moved to its current location on Manzanita Lane in 1973. The synagogue welcomes visitors and new members to its services at 6 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. Saturday, 7 a.m. Thursday and holidays as announced.

Additional information on the Hebrew School, special events and the High Holiday programs is available on the synagogue Web site at

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