Emily K. Alhadeff, Associate Editor, The Jewish Sound
When Rabbi Shaul Engelsberg moves to Seattle from Detroit next month, he’ll be taking on a new role in the community, but he’s not exactly new.
The Orthodox rabbi lived in Seattle from 1994 to 1999, where he taught Judaics at Seattle Hebrew Academy.
“The relationships that I formed in those five years were extremely special,” said Engelsberg.
He’s glad to be returning, this time as head of school at Derech Emunah, the nascent Orthodox girls high school in the Georgetown neighborhood.
The opportunity to come back is “almost hard to put into words,” he said. “It’s very emotionally satisfying for me.”
Engelsberg moved from Seattle to the Detroit area to be near his wife’s family when she fell ill. After she passed away, he remained in Detroit, where he taught at Yeshiva Beth Yehuda, spending nine years with the girls high school division and giving motivational talks at girls high schools, conventions and Shabbatons around the country.
“We have such high standards that sometimes we become discouraged when we’re not meeting our highest ideals,” said Engelsberg of the content of his motivational talks. “It’s important for every person to realize how great they really are.”
Engelsberg sees Derech Emunah as providing “an outstanding Torah education where every girl comes and grows and becomes the best student possible in preparation for life.”
Derech Emunah is going into its third year, with a projected enrollment of nine or ten girls. Rooksie David has served as head of school until now, and will continue to serve as an educational consultant.
“She approached me with the idea of Rabbi Engelsberg as being the head of school for the long term,” said Derech Emunah board president Jeffrey Alhadeff. “Mrs. David and Rabbi Engelsberg are close friends. She thought he would be a good person to take over.”
Alhadeff is excited at the prospect of Engelsberg growing the small school into a place for 20-30 students. He hopes the school will meet the needs of religious families who move or send their daughters out of state to all-girls high schools.
“We’re getting someone who is so talented and could teach at any one of schools in the whole country,” said Alhadeff. “He’s looking to be part of something from the ground.”
When Engelsberg arrives in mid-August with his wife, Feige, and their two youngest children, he will serve an additional role as “masgiach ruchani,” or spiritual adviser, at Congregation Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath.
As the Ashkenazi Orthodox synagogue continues its search for a rabbi, Engelsberg will step in as a sort of scholar in residence for the year.
There is no confirmation that Engelsberg is in the running for the job.
“This is only until they find a rabbi,” he said. “I came here to be principal of Derech Emunah.”
“Not only is BCMH the beneficiary of a truly special Jew, but the entire Seward Park and great community will benefit spiritually having Rabbi Engelsberg rejoining our community,” said Dan Birk, BCMH president.
Engelsberg is thankful for the opportunity to return to Seattle, where he started his education career.
“The community of Seattle has done so much for me,” he said. “Now to be able to come back in a leadership role, it fills my heart with appreciation and thanks.”