The Jewish Community of Amherst’s new rabbi is also a writer, a scholar of Yiddish and Irish literature, a vegetable gardener and a musician. His essays and reporting on arts, culture, politics, and religion have appeared in a variety of publications, including Pakn Treger, the magazine of the National Yiddish Book Center, which is part of what attracted him to the JCA. He hopes to continue writing on the contemporary Jewish experience, and sees this pursuit as part of his rabbinate.
Rabbi Weiner graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia in 2008, and served for three years as half-time rabbi and education director at Mishkan Ha’am, a Reconstructionist community in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.
He grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, in the Conservative Jewish tradition, and is happy to be returning to the Baystate. He studied English literature at Columbia University and received a masters of philosophy degree in Anglo-Irish literature from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, focusing his thesis on the works of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. His study of Yiddish as an undergraduate let him to participate in summer programs in New York, Vilnius, and Paris, and he now speaks and reads the language fluently.
His interest in the rabbinate developed through his work as a b’nai mitzvah tutor. While in rabbinical school, he also served as a chaplain for adults with mental illness, Jewish elders, and terminally ill hospital patients. In addition, he was an intern in the RRC archives, analyzing the Hebrew and Yiddish letters of Mordechai Kaplan (the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism) and, under a Luce Foundation grant, at the Institute for Christian-Jewish Study in Baltimore.
We look forward to Rabbi Weiner’s leadership and inspiration, and join him in his commitment to creating a vibrant and exciting environment at the JCA. “People are searching for Jewish community for a lot of different reasons, religious and secular, whether this means study, worship, or inspiration to social activism,” he said. “My goal is to encourage the JCA to integrate all of these facets–to operate on all of these cylinders.” Rabbi Weiner plays the piano, banjo and guitar, and is an avid vegetable gardener interested in community self-reliance, localism and energy conservation. He will be joined in Amherst by his wife, Elise Barber, who is in the fifth and final year of the Cantor/Jewish Studies program at the Boston Hebrew College.