Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

February 1, 2014

Local UUs first to hire full-time rabbi

TRAVERSE CITY — The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse believe they may be the country’s first UU fellowship to call a rabbi as their full-time spiritual leader.

Rabbi Chava Bahle of Suttons Bay was selected by a 144-5 vote to become the congregation’s third “settled” minister. She will be installed in the fall, replacing interim minister Cassandra Howe.

“It is with immense joy that I accept the call,” a tearful Bahle told the congregation after the vote that followed her Jan. 26 guest service. “Thank you, search committee, for being on the vanguard.”

Bahle is an ordained rabbi in Jewish Renewal and an ordained Maggid, a Jewish inspirational preacher and story teller. She has long been known in the region for her commitment to interfaith collaboration and her belief that people from diverse backgrounds can benefit from the insights of other traditions.

Besides founding Congregation Ahavat Shalom in Traverse City to meet the needs of area Jewish and inter-cultural families, she was the first non-Christian summer minister in residence at the Bayview Association of Harbor Springs. Locally she guest preaches at many churches of other faiths, co-officiates at interfaith weddings, and teaches world religions and other courses at Northwestern Michigan College.

She plans to continue as rabbi emeritus of Chicago’s Congregation Makom Shalom and the Chicago Interfaith Family School via Skype.

Bahle is respected by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse for her guest preaching, teaching and life cycle events over a period of nearly 20 years, said John Hoffmann, president of the search committee. She also worked with the congregation on community projects related to gay discrimination.

“When she’s come in the past, we usually have a full house,” Hoffmann said. “She has quite a following. People like to hear her. She combines humor and intellect and emotion. She’s pretty unique in many ways.”

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