Temple of Israel to install first female rabbi

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Temple of Israel is the oldest Jewish house of worship in North Carolina with its history dating back more than 147 years.

The Temple is about to make history with the installation of Emily Losben-Ostrov, the congregation’s first female rabbi.

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An installation service will be held Friday, April 12, and will mark the first time congregants have gathered in the Temple since Hurricane Florence forced it to close after causing more than $100,000 in damage.

“We lost part of the ridge of the roof which then allowed water to come into our entire sanctuary,” Losben-Ostrov said.

The hurricane damaged the temple’s ceiling, walls, pews and other items inside.



“There’s something symbolic about the fact that our last service in there was Rosh Hashanah which is the start of the Jewish New Year and then our next service is going to be the installation,” she said.

Losben-Ostrov is no stranger to Wilmington’s Jewish community. She has actually presided over the congregation since July 2018.

Following the mass shooting in Pittsburgh at Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018, Losben-Ostrov presided over a community prayer vigil in Wilmington.

“In these particular atrocities when they have happened in houses of worship, I do feel it is not just an attack on that religion, its an attack on anyone who has faith at all and, quite frankly, is an attack on everyone,” she said.

“For us, we can’t let fear keep us from our faith, we have to come together and its actually that outpouring of love from communities around us that was so buoying for us,” she said. “We need those prayers because it makes a difference, we need those prayers to lead us to action and we can only do that if we come together as a community.”

Under her guidance, Temple of Israel hosted a global screening event in November entitled “Who Will Write Our History,” a story about the Holocaust shown in 355 locations and 55 countries around the world.

Previously, Losben-Ostrov served as rabbi for three years at Anshe Hesed in Erie, PA, and seven years at Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore, NY. A 2008 graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Losben-Ostrov is originally from the Philadelphia area.

She and her husband, Ruben, say they’re excited about moving to Wilmington and serving at Temple of Israel.

“I really feel incredibly blessed to be in Wilmington, we found it to be such a warm, welcoming community and its really such a historic community and I love the fact that we are the oldest Jewish congregation,” she said. “While I am the first female rabbi for Temple of Israel, I am blessed to have my colleague, Julie Kozlow, who was the first female rabbi in Wilmington.”

Kozlow presides over B’nai Israel synagogue.

Losben-Ostrov will become the new rabbi of Temple of Israel on Friday, April 12, during an installation service led by renowned scholar, Rabbi Gary Zola of Cincinnati.

Zola will also lead a free lecture about religious liberty entitled “George Washington and the Jews” on Thursday, April 11, at 7 p.m. at the Reibman Center located at 922 N. Market Street in Wilmington.