The quest for a rabbinic ‘beshert’ continues at Ohav Shalom
Spiritual SearchTemple Ohav Shalom

The quest for a rabbinic ‘beshert’ continues at Ohav Shalom

'This is a good opportunity, and we don’t just want to settle'

Bronze ark doors with decorative stone wall in Temple Ohav Shalom’s sanctuary. 
(Photo by Kim Rullo)
Bronze ark doors with decorative stone wall in Temple Ohav Shalom’s sanctuary. (Photo by Kim Rullo)

A spiritual search is underway in the North Hills. Temple Ohav Shalom is working with the Central Conference of American Rabbis, a leadership organization within the Reform Movement, to find a new rabbi.

Aaron Brauser, Ohav Shalom’s president, said that despite lacking a full-time rabbi since October, the congregation has persevered — largely to the credit of Grant Halasz, Ohav Shalom’s director of Ruach and Youth Engagement, and Andrea Guthrey, the congregation’s Religious School director.

“I can’t say enough praises for them. We are just over the moon with them,” Brauser said. “We feel very fortunate having the resources we have for the temple we are. With Grant and Andrea being full-time employees, it’s really filled some of the gaps. If we didn’t have those resources, it would be difficult to keep the religious school running and having services.”

Ohav Shalom’s previous rabbi, Jeremy Weissblatt, left the congregation in October. At the time, Brauser said there would not be a rush to make a quick hire.

“We want to get someone that understands the dynamic of what it’s like to raise a family where there’s not a lot of Jewish kids and families and can provide us that kind of beacon and leadership in the North Hills,” he told the Chronicle then. “We want to make sure we don’t just go for whatever’s out there. We’re going to work to find the best fit and, if we don’t find anyone, maybe there’s an option to hire an interim to bridge the gap until we find the right fit.”

Ohav Shalom remains committed to that mindset.

“We feel extremely fortunate,” Brauser said last week. “We are a very strong congregation. We are not just defined by a rabbi, and that really showed last year.”

Whereas Ohav Shalom staffers spent the last 10 months largely tending the spiritual load, another familiar face is joining the effort.

Rabbi Emily Meyer was retained on an interim basis to cover life cycle events, lead services once a month and officiate High Holidays at Ohav Shalom. Halasz will deliver cantorial support, Brauser said.

Meyer moved to Pittsburgh from Seattle in 2019 when her husband, Rabbi Aaron Meyer, became the spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel of South Hills.

Torah. Photo by Lawrie Cate via Flickr at

After the holidays, Ohav Shalom’s search for a full-time rabbi will accelerate, Brauser said.

He is optimistic that a perfect match exists and cited recent demographics as evidence of the area’s appeal: “We are a very attractive place for a rabbi to come in. The North Hills is growing.

The Jewish community in the North Hills is growing.”

Nine percent of Greater Pittsburgh’s Jewish community resides in the North Hills, according to a 2017 Jewish Community study conducted by Brandeis University and commissioned by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

U.S. Census Bureau findings noted recent growth in the North Hills.

Following a June release of census data, TribLive reported that “Cranberry Township in Butler saw 868 new residents and Pine Township increased by 601 people.” The figures demonstrate that “the region’s North Hills, which encompasses Northwest Allegheny County and Southern Butler County, continued to lead in population growth.”

Ohav Shalom’s history dates more than 50 years; since its inception, the congregation has been the only Reform congregation in the North Hills.

Brauser said he’s confident the congregation’s bright future includes finding its rabbinic beshert: “This is a good opportunity, and we don’t just want to settle.” PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at

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