Faith Friday: Tiferet Israel Welcoming New Rabbi

Tiferet Israel, among the oldest synagogues in North Texas, is charting a new course.

Rabbi Yizhak Meir Sabo was recently elected as the next Rabbi for Tiferet Israel Congregation but is a familiar face to the Dallas Jewish community as an educator at Akiba Yavneh Academy, and through his Torah study group and other activities at Tiferet Israel.

“We feel his love for all Jews and all things Jewish will make him a great Rabbi for our congregation. We are delighted to have him and his family join the Tiferet Israel family,” said Sonia Meltzer, vice president of Membership.

In conjunction with the selection of Rabbi Sabo as its religious leader, Tiferet Israel is moving from Traditional to Modern Orthodox. 

Tiferet Israel’s President, Ed Jerome, answers that question: “Tiferet Israel’s religious services have been Orthodox since our founding in 1890 so our ritual practices will remain the same except for the issue of separate versus mixed seating (for men and women).”

Mixed versus separate seating has been an evolving conversation throughout Tiferet Israel’s 132-year history. Gerry Cristol in her book A Light in the Prairie, Temple Emanu El of Dallas 1872–1997 wrote “…Tiferet Israel was formed when some traditionalists who considered joining Shearith Israel … were deterred from doing so because the sexes were not separated.” Rose Biderman in her book They Came to Stay, the Story of the Jews of Dallas 1870 – 1997, explains that Tiferet Israel’s first permanent building on Highland Street (near what is now the American Airlines Arena) had a mechitza, or the physical divider between the men’s and women’s seating intended to “encourage each individual to focus on prayer and a personal relationship with Hashem with minimal distraction.”

When a new facility was built on Grand Avenue in the early 1940s, the building did not have a mechitza but had separate seating for men in the front and for women in the back. In 1942, the congregation voted to make the two back rows mixed seating to attract younger members. In 1955, the Tiferet Israel followed its members and moved to its current location at 10909 Hillcrest Road in North Dallas.  This new building did not have a permanent mechitza until 2021 when the congregation voted to become a Modern Orthodox institution after the retirement of Rabbi Shawn Zell, leading to an international search for a new rabbi. 

Rabbi Sabo will start his new position June 4.  The congregation will welcome the rabbi with special programming to celebrate the rabbi and Rebbitzen, and to mark the new era in the history of Tiferet Israel.

“With Rabbi Sabo joining us we are looking forward to all our members coming together.  We invite the entire Dallas Jewish community to join us in learning and celebrating this next chapter in the history of Tiferet Israel,” Jerome said.

For more information, visit Tiferet Israel’s website.

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