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About Rabbi Greenstein
Rabbi David Greenstein arrived at Shomrei Emunah in August 2009 with a rich, broad and deep background as a rabbi, cantor, artist, scholar, and teacher. Being Shomrei’s rabbi, he says, allows him to draw on all of these passions, as well as his lifelong commitment to building Jewish communities.
He has lectured widely in academic settings, but on Shabbat mornings, he is less likely to give a conventional sermon than to engage congregants in a running, free-form conversation about the meanings embedded in that day’s texts and prayers – before enticing toddlers to join him in Ein Kelohenu with the lure of a basket of candy hidden on the bimah.
He conveys the meaning of the High Holy Days by transforming Shomrei into a “mitzvah bakery” in which people of all ages bake bread for the hungry - and prepare, in their individual ways, for the Days of Awe.
The beauty of Judaism, Rabbi Greenstein says, is that it offers an opportunity to live an integrated life, by joining our spiritual and our physical selves.
He traces his own inspiration to his father, who was also a rabbi. But his most important teacher, he says, was his grandfather: a candy-store owner and Talmudic scholar who planted the seed of his grandson’s passion for Kabbalah.
“Community has always been a quest for me,” Rabbi Greenstein says. He and his wife Zelda, a documentary film editor, have been building Jewish communities for many years.
In 1972, they helped start Project Ezra, a social-service program that serves poor Jewish elderly residents of the Lower East Side of New York to this day. They were founding members of the Fort Greene Jewish Family Cooperative in Brooklyn, and also of what is now the Hannah Senesh Community Day School, a non-denominational Jewish day school in downtown Brooklyn. The Greensteins have a son, Yonah, who is an undergraduate at Bard College.
For years before his ordination, Rabbi Greenstein was an exhibiting artist, painting during the week and serving as a cantor on Shabbat.
“One of the things I learned as a painter was how you can be creative within the tradition,” he says. “We live in a real world that is constantly changing. The depth of the Jewish tradition evolved in response to this reality, and so it should continue.”
Before ascending the bimah at Shomrei Emunah, Rabbi Greenstein was president and rabbinic dean of the Academy for Jewish Religion, a pluralistic rabbinic seminary in Riverdale, N.Y. He was the spiritual leader of the New Hyde Park Jewish Community Center, on Long Island, from 1993 until its merger in August 2004 with Shelter Rock Jewish Center. At Shelter Rock, he founded and directed the Shiluv Project, an initiative devoted to developing programs and resources for integrated Jewish living.
At Shomrei Emunah, he continues to promote and work toward that ideal of an integrated Jewish life. “The Shomrei community,” he says, “is so full of uniquely gifted individuals that, as a sacred community, it has the potential to become a source of great strength, support, love and joy to everyone it touches.”
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