Rabbi Benjamin Weiner
Rabbi Benjamin Weiner

Now in his second year as the spiritual leader of the Jewish Community of Amherst, Rabbi Benjamin Weiner is also a writer, a scholar of Yiddish and Irish literature, a musician, and an aspiring homesteader. A 2008 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Rabbi Weiner grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, in the Conservative Jewish tradition. 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 led him to participate in summer programs in New York, Vilnius, and Paris, and he now speaks and reads the language fluently. 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.

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. Prior to his arrival in Amherst, he served for three years as half-time rabbi and education director at Mishkan Ha’am, a Reconstructionist community in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Rabbi Weiner is committed to creating a vibrant and multi-faceted environment at the JCA, recognizing that people seek out Jewish community for variety of reasons, ranging across the religious-secular divide. He is particularly inspired by Kaplan’s vision of the modern synagogue as the meeting ground of the contemporary Jewish experience, where past and present are brought into productive dialogue. Rabbi Weiner sings, plays the piano, banjo and guitar, and is an avid vegetable gardener interested in community self-reliance and energy conservation. He is joined in Amherst by his wife, Cantor Elise Barber, a graduate of the Cantor/Jewish Studies program at the Boston Hebrew College.

Rabbi Weiner can be reached at: rabbiweiner@j-c-a.org or by calling the JCA office at 413-256-0160.

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