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Below is the letter sent to the Temple Solel Congregation from the Temple’s President of the Board, Jason Bloch:
On behalf of the Temple Solel Board of Directors and Rabbinical Search Committee, I am delighted to share some very exciting news: We have a new Senior Rabbi! His name is Rabbi Ari Plost (rhymes with “host”), and he is exactly what our congregation needs to guide us into our next half-century. As Rabbi Frazin himself stated: “Rabbi Plost is creative, warm, and sincere. The leadership of Temple Solel has made the perfect choice to build upon our present and enhance the future of our Temple family.”
Indeed, after an extensive search process (including consulting numerous references, some of whom are quoted below), the Temple Board unanimously approved the Search Committee’s recommendation to hire Rabbi Plost, who, beginning July 1, 2021, will be the fourth Senior Rabbi in Temple Solel’s 50-year history. Currently the spiritual leader of B’nai Abraham in Hagerstown, Maryland, Rabbi Plost (or Rabbi Ari as his congregants endearingly call him) led a resurgence of Jewish life and activity in the temple and greater community for the past eight years. He is credited with successfully turning around a struggling congregation, increasing membership through outreach and innovative programming, re-envisioning religious education while increasing the size of the religious school student body, establishing the first-ever Torah study program in the temple’s 130-year history, and enhancing the overall vitality of the synagogue. We are eager for Rabbi Plost to bring his experience and expertise here to Solel. And he is, too.
As President of the Hagerstown Area Religious Council (and its only Jewish member), Rabbi Plost transformed that organization by leading a team of over 40 clergy from diverse houses of worship as together they tackled social justice and social service issues ranging from providing meals to food-insecure families and delivering thousands of books to needy children, to engaging in service and advocacy endeavors with extraordinary community-wide impact. The Executive Director of the interfaith council described Rabbi Plost to us as “a real visionary, a charismatic speaker, a big thinker, and a gift to the community.”
Many of Rabbi Ari’s efforts in the greater community increased the visibility of B’nai Abraham both locally and nationally and were critical in saving lives. For instance, at the start of the pandemic, Rabbi Plost was instrumental in securing essential ventilators for his local community as well as other underserved areas around the state of Maryland, tenaciously networking to obtain and distribute hundreds of these life-saving medical devices. U.S. Senator Ben Cardin recently commended Rabbi Ari for his exemplary humanitarian efforts and noble acts of tikkun olam.
Prior rabbinical experience includes serving as a rabbinical intern at the oldest reform temple in Cincinnati, a congregation with over 400 families, and as Assistant Rabbi at a congregation in San Antonio with over 1,000 families where he significantly increased participation among younger members. Rabbi Samuel Stahl, Rabbi Emeritus of the latter synagogue, lauded Rabbi Ari as “a star who works wonders” and is adored by people of all ages.
A native of Maryland, Ari Plost graduated with honors from Swarthmore College where he was President of the student body, a varsity swimmer, and a Hillel campus leader. He earned his Master’s degree in Educational Administration and Jewish Education at Xavier University and was ordained by Hebrew Union College (HUC) where his rabbinical thesis focused on the moral role of Judaism in the greater society, Jewish social justice, and interfaith collaboration. At HUC, Rabbi Plost was recognized by the faculty with awards for Outstanding Leadership and Community Relations. The former Rabbinical Program Director at HUC Cincinnati, Rabbi Ken Kanter, summed it up for us this way: “Rabbi Plost is a true mensch who cares about each individual, an intellectually challenging sermonizer, and an outstanding educator.”
A strong supporter of Israel, Rabbi Plost is a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis of Reform Judaism and has served on the Ethics Commission of Hagerstown, the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federation of North America, the Commission of Social Action of the Reform Movement of Judaism, and at the Israel Religious Action Center in Jerusalem, among others. Prior to becoming a spiritual leader, he had a successful career as a management consultant in New York and Washington, DC.
Cantor Rosen is already a fan, eagerly awaiting Rabbi Plost’s arrival, adding: “He is very easy to talk to – very warm and friendly, a real people person – someone who will reach out to everyone rather than waiting for them to reach out to him. He is an absolute mensch, and I am very excited to work with him.”
We were told, and have learned ourselves, that Rabbi Plost is a “spark plug” – someone who is highly energetic, dynamic, approachable, unpretentious, deep, and passionate about Judaism and Israel who will reignite the spark within our Family of Solel. He looks forward to hitting the ground running when he arrives in Hollywood this summer and plans to reach out personally and individually to as many temple members, past and present, as possible. As he put it: “I love listening to and shaping the stories we share about our lives. Jewish community can provide the space for us all to reflect on and understand our shared experience. I love teaching, preaching, pastoring, advocating, connecting, visioning, and officiating. I am so excited to have found a warm and haimish community like Temple Solel and can’t wait to listen to and learn from everyone – from the oldest to the youngest – as together we traverse the peaks and valleys of our shared path.”
On behalf of the entire congregation, I especially want to thank the Rabbincal Search Committee members (listed below) who worked diligently and thoughtfully reading resumes, interviewing candidates, checking references, and finding the absolute best Senior Rabbi for Temple Solel. Rabbi Plost embodies the ideal combination of warmth, wisdom, and wit that we seek in our clergy, and we are so blessed that he will be joining the Family of Solel. More information will follow closer to his arrival this summer. Until then, as we gather together during our season of Passover to celebrate a spirit of renewal, please join me in welcoming Rabbi Ari, Michelle, Preston, and Reese Plost to the Family of Solel with a collective and heartfelt Sheyhecheyanu:
.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶּה
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and helped us reach this momentous occasion in the history of our beloved Temple Solel.
With love and affection,
President, Temple Solel
Chair, Rabbinical Search Committee
And with deep appreciation to our
Rabbincal Search Committee:
Bunny Blattner, Joyce Bloch, Jen Chase, Laurel Geller, Walter Hollander, Stephanie Jofe, Bruce Levine, Linda Margolis, Ali Nemes, Sid Rabin,Marcy Roberts, Michael Roberts, Robin Rosen, Steve Slingbaum (Vice-Chair), Larry Smith, and David Topping