Shomrei Torah Synagogue, a West Hills congregation that has had the same senior rabbi for 38 years, has hired a 35-year-old successor to its pulpit.
"The good news is that we have a rabbi; the bad news is that he won't be here until Passover," said Rabbi Elijah Schochet, 64.
Schochet's successor will be Rabbi Richard Camras, who has been an associate rabbi at a Baltimore synagogue since 1992 and will not move to California until April.
Schochet, who announced last winter his plans to retire, has the distinction of serving the longest of any rabbi at a major synagogue in the San Fernando Valley. He began in 1960 with Congregation Beth Kodesh in Canoga Park and continued as pulpit rabbi of Shomrei Torah--the new name taken after a 1994 merger with another Conservative congregation.
"Actually, a part of me welcomes the chance to stay a little longer," Schochet said. "I will have a few extra months to enjoy what I have been doing all my life."
For help during Jewish High Holy Days services Sept. 20-30, Schochet has enlisted Rabbi Bradley S. Artson, the new executive director of the Southern California Board of Rabbis.
On Thanksgiving weekend and a few other occasions, Camras will lead Shabbat services at the West Hills synagogue before relocating in the spring, said a spokeswoman for the 800-family congregation.
Ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City six years ago, Camras received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Arizona and a bachelor's in Jewish studies at the University of Judaism in Sepulveda Pass.
"I fondly remember Rabbi Camras as a student of mine when I was teaching Jewish law," said Schochet, who has been adjunct professor at the University of Judaism.