Reflections on 50 years in the Rabbinate

I was born in Bombay, India (now called Mumbai). I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from St. Xavier’s College which is affiliated with the University of Bombay. Rabbi Hugo Gyrn, the first full time Rabbi in Mumbai, encouraged me to study at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.

As an undergraduate student I took an active leadership role in the Social Service League. We spent Saturday afternoons mixing milk powder with water and distributing this milk to children who lived with their families in ramshackle huts on the outskirts of a large cotton factory. In the summer we spent a week in a small village building a dirt road that would eventually connect the village to the nearest town. It was at this Jesuit College I was able to translate the values and ideals of Judaism into concrete action.

These experiences had a profound effect on my future rabbinic career. I was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1966 with a Master’s Degree in Hebrew Letters. I was awarded the honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1991 for 25 years of rabbinic service.

My first pulpit was the Glasgow Reform Synagogue, the only Reform congregation in Scotland. Despite attacks and opposition from the Orthodox establishment, the congregation has grown. After this unique rabbinic experience I served as rabbi at two congregations in Western Pennsylvania, Beth Zion Temple in Johnstown and Temple Israel in Uniontown.

It was after ten years in the active rabbinate in Glasgow and Johnstown that I decided to practice what I had been preaching in the pulpit. As rabbi of a small congregation in Uniontown I was able to pursue many other professional and volunteer paths. I was appointed Administrator of the Fayette Mental Health/Mental Retardation Program (now called The Behavioral Health Administration). As a volunteer on the board and as the board president I discovered that Fayette County did not have many of the mandated services for people with disabilities.

With a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Hebrew Letters I assumed the challenging position of County Administrator. I taught myself the complex mental health system, proposal writing and the development of budgets of twelve million dollars. This enabled me to greatly expand the county program by establishing all the mandated residential and non-residential clinical services.

I served at Temple Israel in Uniontown for 27 years as Rabbi and 11 years as Rabbi Emeritus after retirement. I was Chaplain at Western Center in Canonsburg, Somerset State Hospital, State Correctional Institutes at Somerset, Waynesburg, Laurel Highlands and Fayette. I also served as Director of UVW Hillel, Spiritual Counselor at Albert Gallatin Home Care and Hospice. I was one of the founders and first Executive Director of Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers of Fayette which provides volunteer service to the frail elderly that enables them to stay in their homes rather than assisted living or nursing homes.

In Uniontown I was active in a number of social and civic organizations. I was President of Uniontown Area Clergy Association, Co-chair of the United Way of South Fayette, President of the Uniontown Rotary Club, Assistant Governor of Rotary District 7330, President of Executive Committee for Agency coordination, President of the MHMR Board, President of Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers of Fayette, Vice President/Treasurer of the Uniontown Jewish Community Center and an active member of the Fayette Lodge of B’nai B’rith.

While in Cincinnati I married Helaine Mazin of Louisville, Kentucky. We will celebrate our 54th anniversary in September. Our children Lisa Kaye and Braham Mazin were born in Paisley, Scotland. Lisa is married to Mark Chertok. They have two children, Adam David and Tova Rose. Our son, Rabbi Braham Mazin David, is married to Naomi Blumberg. They have two children, Asha Nissin and Avinoam Pukar.

Helaine and I now live in Pittsburgh and have become members of Rodef Shalom Congregation where we celebrated the 50th anniversary of my ordination at a special Shabbat Morning Service on June 18, 2016.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       —

                                         Rabbi Sion David is celebrating 50 years in the Rabbinate.  He retired in 2014. 


2 replies on “Reflections on 50 years in the Rabbinate”

HellO Sion you probably won’t remember me but you were my rabbi in Glasgow 1968 when you visited me in hospital when my appendix burst I hope life is good for you kind regards mark grant

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