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Photo Focus: Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas Holds Installation of its First Female Rabbi

While celebrating its 227th year, the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas had another big milestone of note: the installation of its first-ever female rabbi, Julia Margolis, on Friday evening.

While born in Russia and most recently from South Africa, Margolis has called St. Thomas and the Virgin Islands home since February 2022, moving to the island with her two daughters, Emily and Victoria. The temple itself was built in 1833 and is the second-oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. In addition to serving the community’s Jewish population, people of all faiths come to visit this historic site and its unique sand-covered floors.

The program for the evening installation of Rabbi Julia Margolis as the new leader of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas details the many prayers and customs to make her official. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Rabbi Julia Margolis, 42, stands on the bimah at the beginning of the installation ceremony on St. Thomas. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
A friend and mentor of Rabbi Margolis, Rabbi Stephen Fuchs, came to St. Thomas to help lead the installation service for the temple’s newest rabbi. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
With more than 3,000 members around the world, the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas is home to many. Those who could not attend the installation in person were able to watch the event over live stream. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach was in attendance Friday night for the installation of Rabbi Julia Margolis at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Rabbi Stephen Fuchs joins Victoria Margolis, 10, Emily Margolis, 14, and Rabbi Julia Margolis, the girls’ mother, in reciting a prayer, welcoming Shabbat on Friday evening at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
During the installation ceremony of Rabbi Julia Margolis, Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas President Marilyn Blackhall makes a few remarks about this momentous occasion. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
The temple music and songs were accompanied by the talents of Chanelle Schaffer on piano. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Clergy from around the Virgin Islands came to the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas to support one of their newest clergywomen, Rabbi Julia Margolis. From left,  Pastor Jeff Neevel and Pastor Ben Rowe of St. Thomas Reformed Church, the Reverand Dean Sandye Wilson from the Cathedral of All Saints and Pastor Merle Malone of the Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Noah Corcos Santos, 4, of Puerto Rico, plays in the sand that coats the floor at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas temple. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Sitting beside Lt. Governor Roach, Imam Omar Alkawni of the Islamic Center for St. Thomas, center, was in attendance at the installation of Rabbi Julia Margolis at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas temple in Charlotte Amalie. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Having lived in many places around the world and worked in many congregations, Rabbi Julia Margolis is excited to be a member of her newest temple, the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Temple members Stella and Louis Minion light the Shabbat candles at the beginning of the evening service at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
10-month-old Ethan Corcos Santos celebrated a little too hard during the installation ceremony for Rabbi Julia Margolis at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Rabbi Julia Margolis and Rabbi Stephen Fuchs invited the fellow clergy in the audience to join them onstage to participate in the ceremony at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Pastor Merle Malone, in red, holds the Torah as Rabbi Stephen Fuchs redresses it with its protective cover before putting it back on the ark at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas temple. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
The Synagogue of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas is one of the five National Historic Landmarks in the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Temple member Suzi Grbinich opens the ark during the installation ceremony of Julia Margolis as the newest rabbi of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Here at the entrance of the temple of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, the mezuzah, which contains a piece of parchment with Jewish scripture written on it, is meant to bless and protect the home and all within it. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Surrounded by many friends, new and old, Rabbi Margolis officially becomes the newest Rabbi and first female rabbi at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Rabbi Julia Margolis joins Rabbi Stephen Fuchs at the ark to share why he believes she is the new rabbi for the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. He said, “This synagogue, people may come to see the sand on the floor but they will leave enriched by your wisdom, your spirituality and your ardent desire to make this world a place of tzedakah and mishpat, of righteousness and justice.” (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
Following the installation and Shabbat service, Rabbi Julia Margolis and her congregation walked up the hill to a reception at the Lilienfeld House. (Photo by Nancy Borowick)
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