Congregation Beth Israel of the Merrimack Valley is preparing to welcome its new spiritual leader, Rabbi Howard Mandell, next week.

Mandell will begin his tenure at Beth Israel, 501 South Main St. (Route 28), on Monday, July 15. He replaces Rabbi Edward Friedman, who departed last July after his contract expired.

A native of Providence, R.I., Mandell chose law as his first profession and was a civil rights lawyer in Montgomery, Ala., where he served for a time as the attorney for the city. As the first staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, he fought legal battles against white supremacist and other hate groups.

A trip to Israel in 1998 inspired him to become a rabbi, and he moved to New York City to begin rabbinical studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Mandell has led a congregation in Virginia Beach, Va., and has participated in a chaplaincy residency program at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

Everyone is invited to attend Shabbat services on Saturday, July 20, to welcome Mandell to the community. The congregation is also encouraged to call, email or stop by to visit with him.

Congregation Beth Israel is the only Conservative synagogue in the Merrimack Valley. The congregation, which offers a religious school, weekly Shabbat morning services, regularly scheduled afternoon and evening services, special Shabbat programs for youngsters and many holiday programs and events, serves a geographically diverse membership.

For more information, call the synagogue office at 978-474-0540 or email office@BethIsraelMV.org.

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