A century-old hope became a reality when Daniel Fink was installed as Idaho's first permanent rabbi at Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel in Boise.
"We have completed the dream of finding a rabbi," said Alan Tell, a former congregation president.More than 150 people - including several ministers from Christian denominations - filled the synagogue Friday night to witness the historic installation.
The congregation, which has about 100 families, was formed in 1895, but has never had a full-time rabbi. The synagogue is considered the oldest west of the Mississippi in continuous use.
Negotiations to bring in a rabbi united the Congregation Beth Israel representing Judaism's Reform movement and Ahavath Israel, with a more traditional approach, said Tell, considered the synagogue's historian.
Rabbi Arnold C. Fink of Alexandria, Va., Daniel Fink's father, presided over the installation.
"Your rabbi is a sensitive soul," Arnold Fink said. "He blends the old and modern scholarship. He'll give you a message of social justice.
"He will turn you toward each other and say `do not waste. For when you look at another human being, you gaze into the face of God."'
As his son stood before him, Fink lowered and kissed the top of his head. "May God always bring you peace," he said.
He handed the Torah to his son. Daniel Fink carried them slowly down the synagogue aisle as people reached out to touch the scrolls wrapped in blue cloth and decorated with the Star of David.
"The Torah is not something that belongs to the rabbi," Daniel Fink said. "May I be given the blessing of teaching and learning the Torah from all of you."
Daniel Fink, a 13th generation rabbi, paid tribute to his ancestors, Eastern Europeans who came to this country in 1890, for nourishing and sustaining him.
But he urged the congregation to look ahead. "Today we celebrate as we mark a new stage," he said. "We must redig wells to keep fresh water flowing."
He focused on the congregation's diversity.
"We must take our differences and celebrate them as a gift in support of the Torah and pursuing social justice," he said.
The mood was clearly upbeat.
"Let us rejoice that we have good health and good fortune to be here for this happy day," said Dan Stern, president of the congregation's board of directors.
George Caudill, a congregation member who remembers the many years without a rabbi, told the congregation, "I would be leading the service and there would be only a few people. I have looked forward to this day."