Congregation Beth El Welcomes Rabbi Josh Breindel as Spiritual Leader
Sudbury, Mass. – July 1, 2018 – Congregation Beth El of the Sudbury River Valley today announced the appointment of Rabbi Josh Breindel as its rabbi and spiritual leader.
Beth El congregants voted unanimously for Rabbi Breindel in February after a year-long search process, following Rabbi David Thomas’s announcement of plans to retire after 17 years.
Rabbi Breindel served most recently as the spiritual leader of Temple Anshe Amunim in Pittsfield, Mass., where he led the congregation for nine years. He was instrumental in multiple initiatives, including growing the membership, reinvigorating the religious school, developing annual summer lecture series, initiating periodic interfaith services, exploring new worship modalities and building ties between the temple and the broader faith and civic communities.
“I am deeply honored to be the next rabbi of Congregation Beth El and am thrilled for my family and me to be joining this dynamic congregation,” said Rabbi Breindel. “Beth El’s reputation as a community that embraces a joyous and inclusive vision of Judaism is well deserved. Their lay leaders are deeply invested and the professional staff are an incredible team.”
Rabbi Breindel said he was especially honored for the opportunity to work with Beth El Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler, who has served as a teacher and leader at Beth El for 28 years, and as a gifted singer and musician for the broader community as well.
“I am excited for the opportunity to work with Lorel,” Rabbi Breindel said. “I have heard from people across the broader Jewish community of New England about what a spiritual presence she is. I have already enjoyed singing with her and davening with her and I am thrilled to have someone of her stature as a colleague and a partner in tending to the needs of the Beth El community.”
Beth El President Judy Goldberg said that she is delighted to welcome Rabbi Breindel. “I think we will embrace him and he will embrace us,” she said. “Truly, we are made for each other. We invite the whole community, near and far, to come and meet Rabbi Breindel and experience the excitement at Beth El and the enthusiasm for our future.”
An Experienced Rabbi with Roots in Greater Boston
In the greater Berkshires community, Rabbi Breindel served for two terms as President of PACC (the Pittsfield Area Council of Congregations), working extensively on interfaith and community relations. He wrote a column for the Berkshire Eagle and has lectured throughout the region (including radio and television) on topics of Jewish and spiritual interest including mysticism, ethics, spirituality and the role of science fiction in Jewish culture.
Rabbi Breindel knows Greater Boston and the surrounding region well. Raised in Providence, Rhode Island, Rabbi Breindel received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (with a concentration in Legal Studies and a minor in Classics) from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.
After working as a paralegal in Boston, the rabbi says he found his true calling as a Jewish educator and prayer leader at Temple Shir Tikvah in Winchester, Mass. He earned two Master’s Degrees at Hebrew College (Newton, Mass.) in Jewish Studies and Jewish Education. He received smichah (rabbinic ordination) from Hebrew College in 2009 and is a past president of their alumni association.
A Commitment to Innovation at Congregation Beth El
Since its founding in 1962, Congregation Beth El has been on the forefront of American Jewish life. From its beginning, Beth El pioneered a new congregational model for Reform Judaism with a greater emphasis on collaboration between clergy and congregants, on the understanding that innovation and creativity arise from working together.
Beth El’s decades-long commitment to social justice has included work on immigrant and refugee support, LGBTQ and gender rights, voter rights, environmental issues, interfaith relations, homelessness and healthcare. These are issues that are of critical importance to Rabbi Breindel as well.
“We are a tradition that takes action,” he said. “And we are a tradition that is rooted in a very powerful ethical tradition. To me, Judaism calls for us to be actively involved in addressing injustice wherever we find it, to bring healing and holiness to the whole world.”
Education for children and lifelong Jewish learning for adults are a top priority for Rabbi Breindel.
“As a rabbi, I see myself primarily as an educator,” he said. “Education for our children is critical because that’s how we keep our tradition moving from one generation to the next, but learning is a lifelong endeavor.”
From the Berkshires to Greater Boston
Rabbi Breindel said that while he feels like he is “coming home” to Greater Boston, where he studied and lived for many years, life and work in the Berkshires was a time of incredible growth for him.
The Berkshires’ vibrant music and artistic community made him recognize even more clearly how Jewish identity can be powerfully enriched by arts and literature. The beauty of the region’s natural surroundings encouraged him to extend worship and a sense of Jewish identity beyond the walls of the sanctuary, and to the outdoors.
Living in the Berkshires also gave Rabbi Breindel the opportunity to recognize the importance of setting aside time in our busy lives to reflect, an important foundation of Jewish tradition.
“We are living in a time of increasing speed,” he says. “In many ways I love that high speed, high input model, but I also recognize how important it is to set is aside and to appreciate, to breath deep, and to get outdoors and to celebrate creation, not just our inventions.”
Now, Rabbi Breindel is looking forward to the next chapter of his life, as rabbi for Congregation Beth El.
“I couldn’t imagine a better place to serve as a rabbi, or a better home for my family,” he said. “I’m looking forward to growing spiritually with the congregation, whether in Torah study, on the trail for nature walks, or singing together in worship.”
Rabbi Breindel will be spending the summer in a flurry of activity as he meets with congregants in small gatherings hosted in the homes of members, on the playground, and at the congregation. Events open to the entire community begin with a family friendly Havdalah on Saturday July 14th, a playground meetup at Haskell Field in Sudbury on Saturday, July 28th 3-6 pm, and a community wide BBQ on Sunday, August 26th, as well as religious services which continue on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings throughout the summer.
Rabbi Breindel and his wife Stephanie and two young children are busy unpacking and moving into their new home in Sudbury.
“I’m very excited to settle in to my new community,” Rabbi Breindel reflected. “I hadn’t been looking for a new pulpit, but as I learned about Beth El’s search, the more I became convinced that this was the place for me. The congregation’s commitment to social justice, spiritual exploration and intellectual inquiry were irresistible. And their love of music, laughter and food made it impossible for me not to apply! I know that we’re going to find a lot of blessing together!”