By Ben Tinsley
FORT WORTH — Beth-El Congregation’s Ralph Mecklenburger is known far and wide as a rabbi of the highest caliber.
The members of Mecklenburger’s congregation describe him as one of a kind: A theologian. A scholar. An author. A well-respected community leader of both state and national acclaim.
During the past 32 years, Temple community members say, Rabbi Mecklenburger has used his engaging and energetic style to nudge them toward greatness.
But all of that changed Jan. 20, when Rabbi Mecklenburger announced to his congregation he is retiring.
“A year from now, upon retirement, I will be a few months short of 70,” Rabbi Mecklenburger elaborated to the TJP. “Beth-El and Fort Worth have been wonderful places to live, and to raise a family, so we expect to stay in town with many good friends! Most of my classmates are already retired, so it is obviously time to have leisure to do some travel and develop some interests, as well as traveling.”
Jane Nober, chair of the 13-member candidate search committee that will seek the rabbi’s replacement, said Mecklenburger’s decision to retire was not unexpected.
“He is heading toward 70 — and that is sort of the natural order of things,” Nober said.
However, Rabbi Mecklenburger’s retirement won’t be immediate.
Mecklenburger won’t formally step down until July 2016, when his replacement — whoever that is going to be — has been selected, verified, and a job offer made and accepted.
At that time, Mecklenburger will assume the role of Congregation Beth-El’s “Rabbi Emeritus,” temple officials said.
Nober said Monday that members of the committee currently are in the process of creating the “job posting” for the rabbi position that will be placed during the High Holidays on the Central Conference of American Rabbis website, www.ccarnet.org.
Job candidates who see this ad and are interested in applying will do so through this website. All applications for this position of rabbi will be vetted and reviewed by members of the search committee.
Beth-El congregation members will have full access to all information relating to the new rabbi search, officials said.
This data will be available via congregational forms, email or on the temple website: www.bethelfw.org/successorrabbisearch.
All questions and concerns from Beth-El members are expected to be answered on a timely basis, said Laurie Kelfer, president of the Beth-El Congregation board of directors.
“So far, things are going very well,” Kelfer said. “We have had a tremendous response from our congregation.”
Nober, meanwhile, said many Beth-El members are hoping this process will lead to someone who can build on Rabbi Mecklenburger’s incredible legacy.
“We are looking for a dynamic, warm person,” Nober said. “We hope to find someone who can grow into the job and be a good fit.”