by Mary Sue Grossman, Beth Israel Publicity Chair
After nearly 50 years since last celebrating Shabbat at Beth Israel, Lew Groner, the son of Rabbi Benjamin and Rebbetzin Frances Groner, both of blessed memory, returns to Beth Israel Synagogue for a Scholar-in-Residence weekend, Nov. 13-14. He will share uplifting insights and entertaining anecdotes during a Shabbat entitled, A Rabbi’s Son Returns Home. Lew will reflect on growing up as the son of a distinguished Orthodox rabbi and an accomplished rebbetzin mother and what being from Omaha has meant to him and his parents and his six siblings.
Rabbi Groner led Beth Israel in the 1950s and 60s when it had the largest membership of any synagogue in the city. He was the first rabbi of the newly constructed shul on 52nd Street. Perhaps the most famous event during Rabbi Groner’s tenure was the 1957 presentation of Beth Israel’s “Outstanding Man of the Year” award to former President Harry S. Truman at a gala dinner hosted at the shul.
The weekend events are being sponsored by Marty and Iris Ricks. “I had the pleasure of meeting Lew over ten years ago at Friedel’s 40th anniversary celebration,” reports Marty. “We stayed in touch and I began thinking it would be great to find a way for him return to Omaha for a visit.” Marty continued, “There are so many in the community who remember Rabbi and Rebbetzin Groner, and it seemed a natural fit for Iris and me help make the visit a reality.”
“I’m thrilled to be returning to Omaha and Beth Israel in this capacity,” said Lew, “and I am so honored that Rabbi Dembitzer of Beth Israel and Marty Ricks have invited me home in this fashion. Marty was actually one of the first bar mitzvah boys that my dad taught back in 1955 as a new rabbi in town, so I’m particularly grateful that Marty and Iris are sponsoring this affair. It’ll be a very special, meaningful and enjoyable Shabbat for all who attend!”
Lewis Groner is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, a $1 billion foundation that distributes annual grants of approximately $70 million. Prior to joining The Foundation, Lew spent 15 years in corporate marketing and advertising working for J. Walter Thompson, an international ad agency, and Experian, an information services company. Lewis graduated from the University of Illinois in Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in political science and Judaic studies and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he did post-graduate work in journalism and advertising.
Activities will begin Friday evening, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. with Shabbat dinner, followed by a presentation entitled Reflections on Life as a Rabbi’s Son. The cost for dinner is $12 for adults, $6 for children aged 4-12 and free of charge for those 3 and under. Reservations are needed by Nov. 9 and can be made through the synagogue website at orthodox omaha.org or by calling 402.556.6288.
Saturday morning, Nov. 14, Lew will give the Shabbat sermon titled The Blessings of Being from Omaha. That evening, beginning at 7 p.m., a reception will be held at the home of Joel Alperson; Lew’s talk will be Big City Judaism vs. Small Town Judaism.
In addition to Lew Groner’s appearance, the weekend will also include Beth Israel’s hosting of Dr. Lawrence Schiffman at 10 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 15. Dr. Schiffman will give the presentation The Bible and Its Interpretation in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Schiffman is the Judge Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University and Director of the Global Institute for Advanced Research in Jewish Studies. He has served as the Chair of the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University and Ethel and Irvin A. Edelman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies. Between 2011 and 2014, he served as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Professor of Judaic Studies at Yeshiva University.
For additional information on these events or any other Beth Israel programming, please call 402.556.6288. The mission of Beth Israel Synagogue is to perpetuate the legacy of Torah Judaism in the modern world and provide a home for those who wish to learn about and observe halacha, Jewish law. Beth Israel welcomes all persons of the Jewish faith and accepts the diversity of practice and thought among its members. Beth Israel offers a variety of religious, cultural and social programs throughout the year.