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SAJ Rabbis' Biographical Information | The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood

    The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood

    Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983) was one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. We believe that his thought may be even more important in the 21st century.

    SAJ Rabbis’ Biographical Information

    Rabbi Edward Feld, SAJ’s rabbi from 1992-1996, is the Co-Founder of Derekh: Pathways to the Heart and the Jewish Tradition (Derekh.org).  He has published widely on Jewish theology, prayer, the Hebrew Bible, and on halakhic and ethical issues.  Rabbi Feld is the author of Joy, Despair and Hope: Reading Psalms (Cascade Books 2013) and The Spirit of Renewal: Finding Faith After the Holocaust (Jewish Lights 1992).  He is the senior editor of the Conservative movement’s current prayer books, Mahzor Lev Shalem, for which he was listed as one of the “Forward 50,” and Siddur Lev Shalem for Shabbat and Festivals.

    In his distinguished career, Rabbi Feld has served as Rabbi-in-Residence at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (2001-2008), functioning as an advisor and mentor to rabbinical students, and as Hillel Director of both Princeton University and the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign).  He was also one of the founders of Havurat Shalom in the Boston area in 1968.  Rabbi Feld is a noted teacher, lecturing throughout North America.  He is a graduate of Brooklyn College and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1968.  Rabbi Feld lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

    Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, SAJ’s rabbi from 1996-2001, is the Founder and CEO of Leading Ethics LLC, a consultancy that helps companies and other organizations build value by strengthening their ethical climate and culture. After leaving the SAJ she went to work for the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), the international membership association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis, where she served as Chief Executive Officer from 2009-2019.  In this capacity, Rabbi Schonfeld was a recognized spokesperson for the Jewish community and galvanized leaders across the religious spectrum.  In addition to having been the first female rabbi of the SAJ, she was the first woman to serve as the professional leader of a major American Jewish denominational organization.

    As CEO, Rabbi Schonfeld successfully led the RA in publishing a new generation of liturgical works that helped shape the spiritual experience of contemporary Jewry. Rabbi Schonfeld served on President Obama’s White House Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Newsweek named her one of the 50 most influential Rabbis in America in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  She was named by Jewish Women International as a “Woman to Watch” in 2011 and has also been listed in the “Forward 50”.  Rabbi Schonfeld is often called upon to represent the Jewish community in national and international settings and is known for her incisive application of Jewish thinking to world events.  She is a graduate of Yale College and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1997.  Rabbi Schonfeld lives in Westchester County, New York.

    Rabbi Michael Strassfeld, SAJ’s rabbi from 2001-2015, is, for all of his other accomplishments, perhaps still best known for being an editor of The Jewish Catalog (JPS 1973) and its two sequels.  Before coming to the SAJ, he spent much of his career at another Upper West Side congregation, Ansche Chesed, where he served as rabbi from 1991-2001.

    Rabbi Strassfeld has edited Passover Haggadot for both the Conservative movement and the Reconstructionist movement.  He is the author of A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice (Jewish Lights 2002) and The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary (Harper & Row 1985).  Rabbi Strassfeld has just finished writing a new book titled Judaism Disrupted: Re-envisioning Jewish Life for the Twenty-First Century.  He is a graduate of Brandeis College and was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1991.  Rabbi Strassfeld lives in New York City.

    Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, SAJ’s rabbi since 2015, is a mom, community organizer, and activist.  She is a co-chair of the Rabbinic Council of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), an active member of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, of the New Sanctuary Coalition, an organization that fights for immigrants at risk of detention and deportation in New York City, and of the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee.  Rabbi Grabelle Herrmann has been a champion of LGBTQ rights within the Jewish community, engaged with Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), where she served as an intern, and with Keshet.

    In 2004, while a fifth-year student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Rabbi Grabelle Herrmann founded a new Reconstructionist congregation, Kol Tzedek in West Philadelphia.  Kol Tzedek was formed as a congregation that integrated Judaism and social justice into the fabric of communal life and became a refuge for many Jews, especially those in their 20s and 30s, who were disconnected from traditional Jewish and synagogue life.  In Philadelphia, she was among the founding clergy of the interfaith action group POWER (Philadelphians to Organize, Witness, and Empower), and served as co-chair of its clergy council.

    Rabbi Grabelle Herrmann is a proud alumna of the American Jewish World Service’s Global Justice Fellowship, of the Jewish Organizing Fellowship of the Jewish Organizing Institute and Network for Justice (JOIN for Justice), and of Rabbis Without Borders.  Rabbi Grabelle Herrmann is a graduate of Rutgers College and was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2006.  She lives in New York City.

    Mr. Daniel G. Cedarbaum (moderator), an SAJ member, is the Executive Director of The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood.  Organized at the end of 2010 and based in Evanston, Illinois, the Kaplan Center is a not-for-profit organization devoted to the transformation of Jewish community through the dissemination and promotion of the thought and writings of Mordecai Kaplan and the advancement of the agenda of the Kaplanian approach to Judaism in the 21st century.  The Kaplan Center’s perspective is explicitly trans-denominational.

    From 2002-2006, Mr. Cedarbaum was the President of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, and a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.  In addition, he has served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and as a member of the Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees of the United Jewish Communities (now The Jewish Federations of North America).  Mr. Cedarbaum is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.  He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

     

     

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    The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood

    1574 Ashland Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201
    Phone: 847-492-5200