Celebrating the Class of 1965, 50 Years in the Rabbinate: First and Foremost a Rabbi
My relatives and my childhood friends in my native Israel keep wondering to this day how in the world I ever became a Reform Rabbi. Back in Haifa in the 50th we never heard of Reform Rabbis. We heard of Nelson Glueck, whom we knew as an archeologist. We also heard of Abba Hillel Silver, whom we knew as a Zionist leader. We heard of Judah Magnes, whom we knew as co-founder of the Hebrew University. But we did not know that all three were American Reform Rabbis. In my late teens I was living in Uruguay, and one day I met a Reform Rabbi named Isaac Neuman who told me about the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. I told him I was accepted at Brooklyn College and was getting ready to go there for my undergraduate studies. He convinced me that HUC was a better choice for me, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The last fifty years since I was ordained at the New York school have been a wonderful journey. My first pulpit was in Guatemala, where I had to create my own Spanish-Hebrew Reform prayer book. The second was associate rabbi to the late Arthur Lelyveld at Fairmount Temple in Cleveland, Ohio. In Cleveland I founded the Agnon School against great odds, which has since become one of the finest communal Jewish day schools in the country. From there I was “called” to Commack, Long Island, where I spent seven years as the rabbi of Temple Beth David, which grew from 300 families when I arrived to 700 when I left. I recall doing over 1000 b’nai mitzvot ceremonies during that time, probably some kind of a record. After Commack my focus changed from the pulpit to other venues, but over the years I helped small congregations grow and performed other rabbinical duties.
Since then I have had several careers besides the rabbinate, including national director of education for BBYO, the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization; founder and president of two companies, Schreiber Publishing, which publishes Jewish books and books for translators, and Schreiber Translations, which has become one of the main providers of foreign language technical translations for the U.S. Government. Currently, I am serving on cruise ships as Rabbi and discussion facilitator, and I love the life aquatic. Through it all, I never stopped writing, and over the years I have had over 50 books published. My latest book is called Explaining the Holocaust: How and Why It Happened, due soon from Cascade Books, and I am working on a new book titled Why People Pray, which gives me immense satisfaction and which makes me realize how important prayer is.
Through it all, I am first and foremost a Rabbi. The essence of my life is to impart the Jewish heritage and lore to my fellow Jews and to the world. I am very fearful of the decline of Jewish life and knowledge in our goldeneh medineh. But my greatest satisfaction is that all my three children have a strong Jewish identity, and my three grandchildren show every sign of carrying on our glorious chain of tradition. I am sure my wife Hanita and I have something to do with it.
I would like to thank ribono shel olam for having kept me alive and sustained me and allowed me to reach this great milestone of 50 years in the rabbinate.