Rabbi Stephen Listfield, associate rabbi of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington for nine years, has been named rabbi of an Englewood, N.J., congregation, succeeding the reknowned Jewish scholar Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, who becomes rabbi emeritus.
Listfield, 39, who pioneered an innovative program for single Jews during his work here, had been a leading candidate to succeed Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz when Rabinowitz retires from Adas Israel next July.
Earlier this summer, the search committee at Adas Israel, one of the largest Conservative congregations in the nation, recommended that Listfield be named senior rabbi next year. But the personnel committee, while not rejecting him, decided that Adas Israel should have a field of candidates from which to choose.
"They wanted me to remain as one of the candidates," Listfield said. But when Temple Emanu-El in Englewood invited him to succeed Hertzberg, "that was something I couldn't turn down."
The singles program Listfield initiated at Adas Israel has attracted attention and imitators nationwide. The once-a-month gatherings at the spacious Northwest Washington synagogue for supper and a special service for singles have attracted as many as 1,500 persons on Friday nights. Listfield also started monthly family services at Adas Israel, with special emphasis on young couples.
An effective ministry to singles is of particular concern to the Jewish community, where widespread marriage to non-Jews has been a large contributor to a declining Jewish population.
Although Temple Emanu-El is considerably smaller than Adas Israel, Rabbi Herzberg's 29-year tenure there has given it a national dimension. He has been a leader in a number of national and international Jewish organizations and is currently vice president of the World Jewish Congress.
After his retirement from the Englewood synagogue, he will teach at Dartmouth College.
Listfield studied at Rutgers, Princeton and Yale universities. He was valedictorian of his class at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1974, where he was ordained.
While Englewood, a long-settled suburb and bedroom community of New York City, differs in many respects from Washington, Listfield said he expects to transplant some aspects of his singles program there, since it is "only 10 minutes from Manhattan," he said.
He takes over his post Sept. l, two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur, the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar. "The first thing I want to do is get past the High Holy Days," he said.