Vote for your favorite rabbi -- and win them dinner and a massage!
Who's Your Top Rabbi?
After Newsweek released its list of top rabbis, we asked our readers to tell us about their favorite rabbis. We chose 20 compelling nominations with the hopes of highlighting the unsung heroes of the rabbinical world.
Here's our gallery of our top choices. We asked the public to "like" one or more rabbis on Facebook, and we're buying the winner dinner and a well-earned massage. Congratulations to Rabbi Matt Soffer, and congratulations to all the rabbis--and thank you for being our spiritual guides, our leaders and our confidants!
Michelle Pearlman, Monmouth Reform Temple, Tinton Falls, NJ
"Rabbi Pearlman listens more than she speaks. She calls congregants who are too sick to come to services and sings prayers to them over the phone before Shabbat begins.
"She drags herself out of the temple at the end of a long day to go sit by the bedside of a congregant who is ill, and then finds time to nurture and enjoy her husband and children. She inspires me every day to be a kinder and more joyful person."
Adam Raskin, Congregation Har Shalom, Potomac, Maryland
"He takes time for every congregant, from the students in our preschool to the seniors in the congregation. He greets each religious school student with a 'high five' and sits on the floor in our preschool, reading books and doing projects with the students. He is passionate about being a rabbi and teaches Judaism through example--a true mensch!"
"I decided to re-learn my Bar Mitzvah part, which was many moons ago. My son was extremely sick so I decided to dedicate this process to him, because he would never be able to have a Bar Mitzvah. Rabbi Miriam took the challenge (I am tone deaf). When my son passed away, Rabbi Miriam was there for me. Belonging to a synagogue took on a whole new meaning."
Lizzi Heydemann, Mishkan Chicago, Chicago, IL
"Chicago has a real lack of shul-appeal for young adults, whether young-in-fact or young-at-heart. That is changing. Last Friday, we had almost 150 turn out for this new Jewish community at Mishkan Chicago. Rabbi Lizzi is the innovator driving it. The bottom line ... she rocks!"
Gedalia Potash, Chabad of Noe Valley, San Francisco, CA
"The director of my father's assisted-living facility led an unproductive year-long search for someone to visit the Jewish residents, so I asked Rabbi Potash. He came the following week. Now he makes the blessing every Shabbat dinner we have."
Julie Hilton Danan, Beth Israel, Chico, CA
"She's brought a full Jewish life to a small northern CA community. From menchkins (preschool) to Sages (70s) she's led us to develop programs to enrich our hearts, hands, and heads. We are unaffiliated because we're the only congregation with a fulltime rabbi between Sacramento and the Oregon border. If the number of votes determines the best rabbi, of course we won't win. But I remind you, that's part of the problem: organized Judaism has yet to find a way to embrace isolated congregations."
Micah Peltz, Temple Beth Sholom, Cherry Hill, NJ
"Regardless of how long he's known any of his congregants, Rabbi Peltz looks at each one of us, smiles sincerely and greets us by name. He offers guidance to whomever seeks his wisdom and never looks down at his watch. He has a unique way of making large groups of people feel as though they're part of an intimate conversation. Despite all of his distinction, there is a true modesty and humility that permeates every aspect of his being. He's approachable, he's 'real,' and he is a true mentsch."
Arnie Sleutelberg, Shir Tikvah, Troy, MI
"From the first time that I called to speak to him, I sensed that I had found my identity as a Jew, something that I lost when I buried my beloved husband at the age of 57. Not only the best rabbi, but the most outstanding human being that I have ever met."
Benay Lappe, Svara: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva, Chicago, IL
"An incredibly inspiring Talmud and Jewish text teacher, who has been able, year after year, to engage a roomful of Jewish teenagers in excited, delighted Talmud text study (after school!), grappling with challenging ethical dilemmas--never giving them answers, but facilitating their chevruta study and larger discussions in a stunningly skilled way."
Mark Gross, Temple Beth Orr, Coral Springs, FL
"We haven't been a member of this Congregation since moving out of state 11 years ago. This past summer, our mother died, and Rabbi Gross was right there for us, on the spot, to help navigate the process. When we couldn't have a funeral within 24 hours, Rabbi Gross helped us through a Memorial Service first and the funeral 2 weeks later. Additionally, whenever we are in town visiting family and friends, he makes sure to hold a spot for my daughter, as that's where she began her Jewish journey."
Matthew Soffer, Temple Israel, Boston, MA
"Rabbi Matt Soffer leads the Riverway Project, the 20s-30s engagement program, at Temple Israel of Boston. Matt brings his creativity into every aspect of his work. He made a video featuring the Temple Israel clergy in a Matzoh Brei competition, which he narrated and wrote and performed a clever soundtrack. He weaves personal stories and insightful ideas into his teachings. He brings the conversation to a deeper level without alienating anyone."
Jay Stein, Har Zion Temple, Penn Valley, PA
"In a time of need, he lent me his kids' car so I can get to work," writes one congregant. Another says, "You just don't see him on the bimah. He is in the community, on the softball field, on the phone asking if you need assistance when there is a death in the family, even when away for vacation." One other compelling reason he's a top rabbi: "Because he rides a motorcycle!"
"She founded a Women's Seder at Temple Beth-El in San Antonio, Texas, and continued the tradition when she moved to Suburban Temple-Kol Ami. A wise and caring leader who never forgets a name, story, or life event."
Jeff Goldwasser, Temple Beit HaYam, Stuart, FL
"I entered Rabbi Goldwasser's office the first time a non-Jew, with simple questions about planning my son's bar mitzvah. Without intention on my part, the conversation turned to my depression. For the first time, I could tell my story and be heard by a compassionate, non-judgmental soul. Now, 7 years, 2 bar mitzvahs and one conversion later, I am learning to make the best of what life brings my way."
"In a time of darkness, Rabbi Renee stood out from other adults I sought solace from. Instead of trying to coax me out of my situation, she entered it with me and held my hand as we found our way out. Rabbi Renee works to understand the greater meaning behind why there is hunger and inequality, and as a teacher, goes unmatched in the way she passes those messages along."
Yonatan Cohen, Beth Israel, Berkeley, CA
Several nominations, but this, written by a 12-year-old, stood out:
"Rabbi Cohen is the best rabbi of all time! He connects with anyone he meets and does everything he can to help them. Rabbi Cohen is generous and always opens up his house as a place to rest on Shabbat afternoon. We were invited to his house for the seder and I have to say, it was one of my top ten life experiences. It was filled with humor, learning, songs, and personal stories. We stayed up until 4:00!"
Rick Sherwin, Congregation Beth Am, Longwood, FL
"When our then 2nd grader was hospitalized, Rabbi Rick showed up unannounced at the hospital. When my father died, Rabbi Rick came to the hospital early in the morning to tear my mother away from my father's body because no one else could. And he recently helped with our youngest's Bar Mitzvah, sharing in every way including directing the photographers for family pictures. Spiritual leader, thoughtful guide who 'gets' our complicated 13 year old, he is inspiring and always a positive influence."
Larry Bazer, Temple Beth Sholom, Framingham, MA
"Rabbi Bazer is a national hero. Rabbi Bazer spent a year deployed with the 26th 'Yankee' Brigade in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was lauded as the Rabbi for the heroes. He is a Lieutenant Colonel and the Joint Forces State Chaplain for the Massachusetts National Guard, and works with the Boston office of the F.B.I."
Mara Young, Woodlands Community Temple, White Plains, NY
"She can ice skate with the best of them while leading a Havdalah service. She cares. She laughs. She's great."
Winston Weilheimer, Beth Shalom, Orange City, FL
"Rabbi Weilheimer welcomes everyone to his services, which are always lively and full of heart. He instituted a no-ticket policy for High Holiday services and a no-dues policy years ago, before it was fashionable. Rabbi Winnie is also a fulltime accountant, but he balances both jobs extremely well and gives 100% to his congregation. We have a small membership that is active and warm...no cliques, just a group of Progressive Conservative Jews who think of each other as a loving, caring family."