Rabbi Raysh Weiss begins his role as Co-Chief Rabbi at Temple Israel of Natick in late July. She will serve as spiritual leader alongside Rav Hazzan (Rabbi Cantor) Ken Richmond. She happily anticipates the co-rabbi leadership model. “It’s a healthy way to encourage collaborative and creative thinking,” she said in an interview. Rabbi Weiss succeeds Rabbi Dan Liben, who recently retired after 30 years at Temple Israel. She received her ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 2016. In addition to being a rabbi and scholar, this multi-talented mother of two is an educator, musician, writer, social activist, filmmaker and visual artist.
Gladly anticipating her role with Temple Israel, Rabbi Weiss said she admired “the palpable sense of community in Temple Israel. I look forward to working with Rav Hazzan Richmond and being part of the temple’s larger Shabbat community, which is stronger than many congregations in the Conservative movement.
Over the past year, she has visited the Temple of Israel, held services and met with worshippers. “The time I spent visiting the Boston area made me feel even more at home. And I have roots here, all of my mother’s family is from Worcester. Rabbi Weiss pointed out that she was not the first member of her family to work at Temple Israel. “My brother-in-law of blessed memory, Rami Rank, was a youth director about 20 years ago. Sadly, he died last year, well before his time, at 38. When he was at Temple Israel, he was a student and worked with the temple youth, and he loved it.
Rabbi Weiss most recently served as Rabbi of Beth El of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She previously served as rabbi at the Shaar Shalom Synagogue in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she also served as honorary Jewish chaplain at Dalhousie University and University of King’s College. While in Nova Scotia, Rabbi Weiss was one of two women serving full-time as senior rabbis of Conservative synagogues in Canada.
The Chicago native grew up in an Orthodox family in a tight-knit community. A life-changing experience as a teenager sent her in a direction she hadn’t yet anticipated: she attended a deaf girl’s bat mitzvah at Harvard Hillel. “I was in a sort of trance while serving,” she recalled. “This young woman spoke Hebrew perfectly and, using the vibrations of the throat, sang to the key.” The future rabbi was inspired to have his own bat mitzvah, although in Orthodox communities girls generally do not lead services or read Torah. She found a tutor who taught her the Torah trope, and she told her parents about her bat mitzvah service plans, which she had arranged with her sister’s friend. The rabbi’s friend and sister were active in the traditional and egalitarian Harvard Hillel movement. minyan. His parents attended the service, along with members of his mother’s family from Worcester.
“It was an enriching experience,” she recalls. She quickly befriended peers who worked as professional Torah readers and took on this role herself. “Working at shuls was the turning point for me, leading to my ultimate goal of becoming a rabbi.
Higher education led to Rabbi Weiss’ multiple academic, social, and cultural undertakings. She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Comparative Literary Studies, Philosophy, and Radio/Television/Film in 2006. Music has always been an important part of her life; she founded and led Northwestern’s klezmer band WildKatz. She produced the album “Party Like It’s 1899”. Rabbi Weiss then spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Germany doing fieldwork in ethnomusicology, with a focus on klezmer music in post-war Europe. In addition to singing, Rabbi Weiss plays a variety of instruments, his favorite being the saxophone. She has also studied the music of other cultures, including that of Somali Muslim women and Brazilian samba.
Writing is also a passion. Rabbi Weiss has been writing for Jewish publications since she was a graduate student. While in Nova Scotia, she was a regular contributor to The Canadian Jewish News. “I’ve done a lot of freelancing, which I really enjoy, and I’ve published some of my sermons and lectures,” she noted. She has written for publications such as Tablet Magazine and My Jewish Learning. Rabbi Weiss also earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Minnesota, writing his doctoral dissertation on early 20th-century Yiddish musical cinema.
In addition to his many accomplishments, Rabbi Weiss founded YentaNet, an impressively successful volunteer matchmaking organization in New York. “I used my intuition to make suggestions to people,” she explained. She was eventually inundated with requests and decided to train other matchmakers. “I ran well,” she recalls. “But I reduced. I love it, but it’s very time consuming.
Looking ahead, Rabbi Weiss discussed key issues for the Jewish community. “The biggest challenge is our optional culture. This situation is not just Jewish, it is a generational issue,” she said. “Judaism is one of many choices for people, and that’s symptomatic of other trends. Some view Judaism as a discretionary value. There are also serious day school affordability issues. We need to work on how we can better support Jews of all incomes. »
Rabbi Weiss also stressed the need for strong ties with Israel. “It is important to strengthen our relations with Israelis, to visit Israel, to be able to hear Israeli stories. We must hear it in our kishkesand it’s best done through real people.
Reflecting on his career to date, Rabbi Weiss noted, “These last few years have been so unpredictable that you can’t really assume anything. But as a Jew, I think we are uniquely equipped to adapt to crises. This is how we survived as a people.
“The Temple Israel community is incredibly fortunate to welcome Rabbi Raysh Weiss as Co-Chief Rabbi,” said Marlene Dodyk, President of Temple Israel. “Her intellect, her passion for engagement with families, her love for Israel and her commitment to social justice make her an exceptional addition to our community.”
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