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Carole Mikita ReportingWhen Frederick Wenger moved to Salt Lake City in 1987, he was the only rabbi in the state. His challenge was to bring two Jewish congregations together. His other goal was to become a successful part of the larger religious community. As he retires, those in and outside his faith, say Rabbi Wenger has achieved both.
The guest of honor mingled with his own congregation and those of other faiths. This is something Rabbi Frederick Wenger has done for 16 years, leaving a positive impression on the community and the state as an intelligent, friendly man of God.
In 1987, when the rabbinical position opened, it called for a religious leader who wanted to continue merging the reformed and conservative Jews into one congregation. Rabbi Wenger, living in Chicago at the time, was interested.
Rabbi Frederick L. Wenger, Congregation Kol Ami: "I turned to Rochelle and I said, 'Sweetheart, I don't know but I think this could be me'."
Rabbi Wenger has led in times of celebration, the opening of the new Jewish Community Center, and in times of remembrance, the service following Sept. 11th.
Rabbi Wenger: "The caliber of men and women who have come here to be religious leaders, whether it be Pastor France Davis or whether it be Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish or, for that matter, Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, there is a feeling of collegiality."
Rev. France Davis, Calvary Baptist Church: "He's the first rabbi that I’ve ever known to attend our church for any kind of event. And his willingness to do that helped us understand him more, but helped him understand us more as well."
Bill Evans, Latter-day Saint Friend: "He's always been a gentleman, he's always been a facilitator, and someone who has sought for common ground and goodwill."
Another gift his congregation says he possesses is an ability to reach all generations.
Irwin Berry, Congregation Kol Ami: "The word rabbi means teacher and that's what he does to the utmost."
Rita Skolnick, Congregation Kol Ami: "He's been the man for the job for many years."
For Utah Jews, he wishes an increase in membership and spirituality. For himself, he sees a less important but equally fulfilling role.
Rabbi Wenger: "It's a part of me and this is the synagogue, obviously, that we've chosen to remain with and to go into retirement, so, it obviously...it fit then and it still fits now."
Rabbi Wenger and his wife, Rochelle, will spend three months in Israel working with troubled teens. Then in January he will teach a class on world religions at Westminster College and a class on Zionism at BYU.