Beloved rabbi retires

Posted: February 17th, 2017 | Features, News, Top Stories | No Comments

By Margie M. Palmer

Leonard Rosenthal honored by city for years of service to community

Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal may be retiring as the spiritual leader at the Tifereth Israel Synagogue, but wants both congregation and community members to know he’s not going far.

“I’ll still be around. [My wife and I] aren’t moving. If anything, I’ll be busy driving my wife crazy. She’s already talking about moving out after I retire,” Rabbi Rosenthal said, laughing. “I’ll still be around for emergencies and special events.”

The last day of his 29-year tenure with the synagogue will be March 5; after that, he plans on doing some volunteer work and possibly taking some classes. But most importantly, he looks forward to spending more time with his children and grandchildren.

He’s also looking forward to traveling to Israel for Passover.

“It’s been both an honor and privilege to be with the same institution for the past 29 years. It’s not common to be with the same institution for so long,” he said. “I’m parting with many friends and affection. It’s been a real privilege.”

Throughout his tenure, the rabbi has racked up a long list of accomplishments; in addition to leading many groups of synagogue members to Israel, he’s been a longtime proponent of Israel advocacy.

He’s made countless visits to synagogue shut-ins and seniors through home visitations, and he’s served as president of the San Diego Rabbinical Association three times. He’s even been honored by the San Diego City Council.

Rabbi Leonard Rosenthall poses with his wife Judy after being honored with a proclamation by the city council. (Courtesy of Leonard Rosenthal)

On Jan. 31, the council signed a proclamation declaring that the day would forever be known as “Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal Day in San Diego.”

“I was touched. It is a great honor for the city to recognize me in that way,” he said.

Yet despite his long list of accomplishments and accolades, what sticks out most, he said, is the sense of community he’s helped create within the congregation.

“Everyone likes each other, they’re friendly with one another and we’ve built up the Tifereth Israel Synagogue Endowment Fund, which will guarantee the future. We have a great staff and really wonderful, loving congregants,” he said.

Kindness, inclusion and the next chapter

In his departure, especially in the current day, age and political climate, the rabbi also has messages of kindness and non-partisanship for both the congregation and community at large.

“I would tell people to not be so partisan and to not build these borders between countries. Political statements can wedge between people,” he said. “The nice thing about my congregation, and the board of directors, is that we can disagree with each other strongly but we leave meetings as friends. People who have strong political opinions should get along with each other instead of demonizing each other.”

He also sees value in helping the less fortunate, including people who are arriving to the U.S. from another country.

“About 20 years ago, the congregation was quite active in helping with Russian refugees. We adopted families, helped supply furnishings and we helped them find jobs and make connections within the community,” he said “They were very grateful for that assistance and some continued to be members of the congregation after that.”

The rabbi’s final days at the Tifereth Israel Synagogue will be bittersweet; he’s been well-loved by his congregants. He will be missed.

“The congregation was surprised, and some were saddened when I announced my retirement, but they understood,” Rosenthal said. “It’s just time for me to move onto the next phase of my life. Change can be good and sometimes things have to be shaken up in order to move on. I think of myself of being of the previous generation.”

—Margie M. Palmer is a freelance writer who has been racking up bylines for over a decade. Reach her at


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