By Stephen E. Lipken
After 43 years of unparalleled devotion and commitment to Beth El Synagogue Center, New Rochelle, Rabbi Melvin N. Sirner has announced his retirement.
“I am ready for a new chapter in my life. Thank G-d I am healthy and would like to pursue some interests such as reading, arts and sports at a more leisurely pace that I could not due to the enormous demands of the rabbinate. I was on call 24/6 (except for Shabbat).
“I hope to continue to do occasional teaching and schedule permitting, officiate at some life cycle events in the community,” Rabbi Sirner stated.
Born and raised in Chicago, Sirner pursued undergraduate studies at University of Michigan, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Psychology. “My deciding to enroll in Jewish Theological Seminary in 1966 flowed from two loves: 1) love of study of Jewish tradition; 2) love for working with people,” Sirner remarked.
Ordained in 1972, Sirner came to Beth El the same year as Assistant Rabbi, becoming Senior Rabbi upon the late Rabbi David I. Golovensky’s retirement in 1976.
Formerly Chair of the Montefiore Medical Center Pastoral Committee, Rabbi Sirner attended to religious and spiritual needs of patients, working with clergy of different faiths. Active in New Rochelle’s H.O.P.E. Soup Kitchen, “to help awareness of the needs of vulnerable members of our community,” Sirner pointed with pride to “our cadre of volunteers who cook for the Soup Kitchen and collect both food and funds several times a year.”
Asked about his vision for the future, Sirner replied, “We face many challenges in a free and open society, but I do believe that many people are in search of a caring and warm community with a sense of something larger than themselves. There are many that I believe are in search of religious values who desire a framework to give meaning to their lives.”