Rabbi Mark Gross was honored with heartfelt tributes for his 29 years at Temple Beth Orr’s gala “Milestones and Memories” dinner that took place recently at the Coral Springs temple.
Gross, who will be retiring in late June, will become the rabbi emeritus.
Prior to the dinner, a special Friday evening Shabbat service took place with local clergy, dignitaries from Coral Springs and temple members speaking on the achievements of Rabbi Gross for his service to Temple Beth Orr and the city of Coral Springs.
“Tonight is a milestone to honor the achievements of our beloved rabbi, Rabbi Mark Gross whom has dedicated his life to the well being of Temple Beth Orr and the surrounding community,” said Temple Beth Orr president Steve Feinstein.
“Over the past 29 years, Rabbi Gross has performed 268 weddings, 43 conversions to Judaism, 575 naming of baby ceremonies, 981 funerals and 1,452 bar and bat mitzvahs. Rabbi Gross has performed births, bar/bat mitzvahs, marriages and funerals for more than one generation of the same families,” Feinstein added.
Testimonials from speakers at the service praised Gross for being an outstanding civic and spiritual leader, with Coral Springs Mayor Skip Campbell and Pastor Randall Cutter of New Dawn Community Church noting how Gross inspired them.
“Rabbi Gross is a community leader and led many interfaith services with Christians, Muslims and other faiths. His ability to lead and plan many community programs have strengthened our community ties,” said Cutter.
“Rabbi Gross is devoted to the city of Coral Springs. Since 1986, Rabbi Gross has taught all of us his ideals stemmed in Judaism that united Jews and non-Jews alike in a bond that brings the spirit of God to life everyday,” said Campbell, who is a former Seminarian.
Gross has led 12 congregations at Temple Beth Orr interfaith services taking place near Thanksgiving since 1988, often attended by as many as 600 families. Gross is also chaplain of the Coral Springs Medical Center and the Coral Springs police department.
At the gala dinner, Temple Beth Orr members offered a 45-minute video and live tribute to Gross, citing how his warm, charismatic personality was a comfort to them at both happy and sad moments in their lives.
“When our temple closed and my family went to Temple Beth Orr, it was the warm welcome and attention from Rabbi Gross that inspired me to think of him as my personal rabbi,” said Temple Beth Orr member Steve Marcus.
“Rabbi Gross has been there for my family through two b’nai mitzvahs, two confirmations, two funerals and thankfully a wedding,” said Karen Ball.
“When I decided to marry Michael, a Catholic man, Rabbi Gross showed us much caring and understanding in marrying us,” said Cindy Librizzi.
“Under the guidance of Rabbi Gross, although my husband did not convert to Judaism, our two children are Jewish and go to religious school at Temple Beth Orr,” said Librizzi.
With a 29-year tenure, Gross may be the rabbi with the longest history at one congregation in Broward County.
“Back in 1986, Coral Springs was a small town when Rabbi Gross came to us from California. Our membership of 150 families soon became 300 and blossomed into 700 families. As the Jewish population in Coral Springs grew, Rabbi Gross became a permanent fixture. His impact on spirituality crossed religion and cultures,” said Feinstein.
Gross is able to trace his lineage of being a rabbi through 18 generations.
“It is a blessing to trace my roots and find a connection through history of being part of a legacy of rabbis. After more than a generation at Temple Beth Orr and nearly 30 years of service to our congregation, one of my fondest experiences is when former students come back years and even decades later and exclaim ‘You haven’t changed at all,'” said Gross.
“That’s not entirely true. But in all seriousness, I attribute everything positive in life as due to the outcome of a lifetime immersed in Torah, in accord with the will of my creator; of doing work I love and to which I am inexorably summoned, as heir to 18 generations of rabbinic leadership and of devoting my life in service to people I enjoy, who have generously reciprocated with their loyalty and affection,” said Gross in addressing his congregation.
Gross also thanked his wife Carol and their three children for their devotion to Temple Beth Orr.
More than 30 Temple Beth Orr members, headed by Lauri Sokoloff, worked months in advance to plan the “Milestones and Memories” gala dinner.
To learn more about Temple Beth Orr, 2151 Riverside Dr. in Coral Springs, call 954-753-3232 or go to http://www.templebethorr.org
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