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One Community, Many Voices: A Pre-Shavuot Celebration of Torah

May 25, 2020 6:00 pm - 9:30 pm

One Community. Many Voices Banner with cheese and Jewish book.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, The Washington Board of Rabbis, The Jewish Community Relations Council, and Hadar proudly present an extended evening of Torah study (Tikkun Leil) in honor of the upcoming holiday of Shavuot.

We invite you to join a diverse and cross-denominational group of 16 local rabbis inspired to come together to lead our community in learning in preparation for Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the gift of our shared Torah. We look forward to gathering virtually to honor our Jewish collective history and explore how Torah addresses our human condition while providing inspiration for a healthy future. We will also have the opportunity to observe Memorial Day together, by honoring those who have fallen in military service for our country.

Memorial Day: Monday, May 25
6:00 PM – 9:30 PM

This webinar is free to the community.
A Zoom link will be provided in your registration confirmation. 

Program Overview (In formation)

Each rabbinic presenter will offer a 10-minute session.  See below a full list of presenters, presentation descriptions, and an overview of the program. 

6:00 PM – 6:05 PM
Welcome Remarks

6:05 PM – 6:45 PM
Group 1

Rabbi Uri TopoloskyFaith Without Certainty
Rabbi Uri Topolosky
Kehilat Pardes – The Rock Creek Synagogue, Chair of the Washington Board of Rabbis

Session Description
Since Purim we’ve been dealing with heavy doses of uncertainty disrupting the normal order of our lives – even cutting into our most deeply held convictions. A friend summed it up as: I’m surviving, but not thriving.

This session will suggest, counter-intuitively, that the best way to handle uncertainty is to embrace it as a value, rather than a foe. In fact, the Torah teaches uncertainty as the fundamental spiritual tool to survive and thrive.

About Rabbi Uri Topolosky
Rabbi Uri is the spiritual leader of Kehilat Pardes – The Rock Creek Synagogue, a modern orthodox synagogue in Rockville. He also serves as the Rav Kehillah of the Berman Hebrew Academy, and chairs the Beltway Vaad, as well as the Washington Board of Rabbis.

Jewish Connections to Memorial Day
Rabbi Sue Shankman
Washington Hebrew Congregation

Session Description
This session will explore the ways in which our Jewish concepts of memory, enhance and connect us to this moment on our American calendar.

Source Materials: Handout

About Rabbi Susan Shankman
Rabbi Susan Shankman was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2001, and has been at Washington Hebrew Congregation ever since. Rabbi Shankman was the first female President of the Washington Board of Rabbis, and has served on the board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). She currently sits on the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and is a board member of Jewish Women International, and serves on JWI’s National Clergy Task Force on Domestic Abuse. Rabbi Shankman was honored with the Community Leadership Award at JWI’s Women to Watch luncheon in 2006, and in June 2014, Rabbi Shankman received the Matthew H. Simon Rabbinical Award from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Rabbi Shankman is married to Rabbi Michael Namath, Program Director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and they are the proud parents of Isabel, Jacob, and Evie.

Breaking the Tablets
Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld
Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue

Session Description
Was Moshe justified in breaking the tablets? What was his justification? What can this incident teach us in our current practice of Judaism?

About Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld
Rabbi Herzfeld has been the Rabbi of Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue since 2004. He received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, an affiliate of Yeshiva University, and a Masters in Jewish History from Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University. His Torah sermons and thoughts can be found at He also publishes a daily 5-minute Daf Yomi podcast, which can be accessed at He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, Dr. Rhanni Herzfeld, and seven children.

Werbin HeadshotThe Hidden Waters of Shavuot
Rabbi Fabian Werbin
Congregation Beth El, Bethesda

Session Description
Water in the Jewish tradition is related, in general, to redemption. We will explore where the symbolism of water can be found in this holiday.

Source Materials: Handout

About Rabbi Fabian Werbin
Rabbi Fabian Werbin was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He attended elementary and Jewish high school there. He received his two undergraduate degrees, in Bible and in Jewish Thought, from Haifa University in Israel. Rabbi Werbin received his rabbinic ordination in 2003 from the Seminario Rabinico Latino Americano in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Rabbi Werbin holds certification as an Elementary and High School teacher. He is conversant in Spanish, Hebrew, Italian, and English.

Rabbi Werbin is married to Patricia Gradel, a psychologist with a Masters degree in Jewish Education. They are devoted parents to four children: Ariel, Catalina, Naomi, and David. In his (limited) spare time, Rabbi Werbin enjoys reading, studying Talmud, soccer, and a good joke.

6:45 PM – 6:50 PM

6:50 PM – 7:30 PM
Group 2

Rabbi Layman HeadshotDoes God Wear Tefillin? A Brief Talmudic Theological Study
Rabbi Jonah Layman
Shaare Tefila Congregation

Session Description
As we re-experience the revelation of God at Mt. Sinai, we begin to explore our theology. How do we understand God, what is our relationship to God and what is God’s relationship to us? This story from the Talmud is just one brief entree into the rabbinic mindset.

Source Materials: Handout

About Rabbi Jonah Layman
Jonah Layman has been the rabbi of Shaare Tefila Congregation since 1994. He is a past president of the Washington-Baltimore Region of the Rabbinical Assembly and a past president of the Washington Board of Rabbis. He also has served on the Disability Inclusion committee of the Rabbinical assembly.

Ruth and Resilience
Rabbi Rachel Hersh
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation

Session Description
The scroll of Ruth (Megilat Rut) is a beloved reading for our Shavuot festival. This ancient beautiful story of love and redemption has special wisdom for us in our present historic season. Studying this text can teach us so much about summoning and cultivating resilience in the face of adversity, and doing so with grace and kindness.

Source Materials:

About Rabbi Rachel Hersh
Rabbi Hazzan Rachel Hersh is part of the spiritual leadership team at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, MD, and active in Jewish communal life in the DC area. She is in constant search of the highest spiritual frequency for connecting with others, most recently from her living room Zoom bimah. Of all Biblical stories, she especially loves the scroll of Ruth and is always eager to explore that beautiful text with others.

Rabbi Antine HeadshotWe are Blessed to Have Blessings on the Torah
Rabbi Nissan Antine
Beth Sholom Congregation

Session Description
This session will be a brief analysis of some of the blessings that we make before Torah study and what those blessings teach us about how to study

About Rabbi Nissan Antine
Rabbi Nissan Antine is the Senior Rabbi of Beth Sholom Congregation in Potomac Maryland. Rabbi Antine grew up in Cleveland Ohio and attended many yeshivot including Talmudical yeshiva of Philadelphia, Kol Torah Rabbinical College and YCT Rabbinical school. He was ordained from YCT in 2006.

Rabbi Adam RaskinThe Rabbi Who Ate on Yom Kippur: Lessons in Leadership from the Cholera Epidemic
Rabbi Adam Raskin
Har Shalom

Session Description
As Vilna suffered the grueling effects of the 19th Century cholera epidemic, the renowned religious leader Rabbi Israel Lipkin Salant made a courageous and controversial decision in an effort to save lives in his community. We will examine this story and how it can apply to today’s pandemic.

About Rabbi Adam Raskin
Rabbi Adam Raskin has been the spiritual leader of Congregation Har Shalom since 2011. Ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary, and a recipient of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, he spent the first 9 years of his rabbinate in Dallas, TX. Since coming to Har Shalom, he has spearheaded a renewal in the congregation, its membership, schools, physical plant, and presence in the larger community. Rabbi Raskin was the first rabbi to participate in Leadership Montgomery, and he is a co-founder of Potomac Area Interfaith Communities, a consortium of religious organizations and clergy that unite for study, community service, and an annual Interfaith Thanksgiving service. Rabbi Raskin is on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly, and has served on the boards of the Berman Hebrew Academy, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. He is married to Sari Levinson Raskin, and has three children, Mia, Nessa, and Ezra.

7:30 PM – 7:35 PM

7:35 PM – 8:15 PM
Group 3

Rabbi Krame HeadshotHey, Have You Got A Rabbi I Can Borrow?
Rabbi Evan Krame
The Jewish Studio

Session Description
In the internet age, the relationship between rabbi and community is changing rapidly. With guidance from the past and accommodations for the present, we will explore “who is your rabbi?” 2020 style.

Source Materials:

About Rabbi Evan Krame
Rabbi Evan J. Krame is co-founder and spiritual leader of the Jewish Studio, a community creatively for adults who are under-affiliated, disaffiliated, or unaffiliated with formal Jewish organizational structures. Evan served as an adjunct rabbi at Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County. Evan completed CPE training at the Hebrew Home of the Charles E. Smith Life Communities and serves on the Pastoral Care committee. Evan has training as a spiritual advisor, developing skills in spiritual direction, and engaging adults and seniors in eldering and sage-ing work. His non-profit service includes chairperson of the Hillel, George Washington University, founding officer of the American Friends of the Anne Frank House, and President of Shared Horizons, Inc., a pooled special needs trust for persons with disabilities. Evan was named Exemplar of Excellence by Hillel and Campaigner of the Year by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. His websites include and

Rabbi Cooper HeadshotShavuot: A Love Story
Rabbi Eitan Cooper
Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah

Session Description
While Shavuot is often overshadowed by its bigger siblings of Pesach and Sukkot, there is still something special about the holiday (other than cheesecake!). In fact, Shavuot is a holiday with strong themes of love. We’ll spend a bit of time exploring what makes Shavuot a day of love (hint: If it weren’t for Shavuot, my spouse and I may not have been married!)

About Rabbi Eitan Cooper
Rabbi Eitan Cooper grew up in South Orange, New Jersey and after attending Yeshivat Orayta, graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis University with a B.A. in Near Eastern Judaic Studies and Psychology. He spent two years learning in Israel at Yeshivat HaKotel and Pardes, and received his ordination from YCT Rabbinical School in 2019. He has served as a Rabbinic Intern and Co Youth Director at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, as well as a guest educator at YIOZ (Young Israel Ohab Zedek). In addition to his rabbinic education, he worked for six years for Rosov Consulting, a company specializing in research and evaluation for Jewish foundations and non profits. He holds a MA in Survey Research from the University of Connecticut. Rabbi Cooper is married to Dita, who serves as the Dean of Students at Berman Hebrew Academy’s upper school. They are blessed with two sons, Noam and Itai.

Honoring and Revering our Parents: Gender Distinctions (and Blurings) in the 5th Commandment
Rabbi Marc Israel
Tikvat Israel Congregation

Session Description
The commandment to honor our parents stands at the liminel between our obligations to God and our obligations to humanity, serving as a bridge between the previous four and the follwoing five commandments. In both Exodus and Deuteronomy, the command is to honor one’s father and one’s mother. Yet, in its reiteration in Parshat K’doshim in Leviticus, it says to revere one’s mother and one’s father. Looking at differences between honor and revere and the switch in order of the two parents, we will explore how rabbinic tradition both reinforces gender distinctions and blurs the line between them.

About Rabbi Marc Israel
Rabbi Marc Israel has served the Tikvat Israel community in Rockville, MD since June 2019. Previously, he served for 6 years as associate rabbi of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in the Philadelphia suburb of Wynnewood. This marks a return for Rabbi Israel to the Greater Washington Jewish community, where he served for 16 years, including 8 years as the rabbi educator at Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase. Rabbi Israel graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in political science in 1992 and earned his rabbinic ordination in 1998 from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. He joined the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in 2007. Rabbi Israel is married to Washington native Abbey Frank and they have three children. Returning to Washington just after Bryce Harper left for the Phillies, some credit the Washington Nationals’ change of fortune and World Series’ championship to his move.

Rabbi BernstainPatience and Conversion: Hillel and Shammai
Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein
Temple Rodef Shalom

Session Description
Ruth is the prototype in Jewish tradition of the attitude and outlook with which someone should approach conversion to Judaism. Ruth’s choice to remain with Naomi parallels our choice to accept Torah, and our re-commitment to Torah on Shavuot. After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Rabbis had to decide how they should respond to those who wanted to join the Jewish People through conversion. We will explore some of the challenges the Rabbis faced as we study Hillel and Shammai’s approaches to conversion, using excerpts from Talmud Bavli: Shabbat 30b-31a.

Source Materials:, Handout

About Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein
Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein is a rabbi at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia. She received her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in May 2009. Prior to her ordination, Rabbi Bernstein was a clinical social worker for over twenty years. Rabbi Bernstein served on the staff of the Union for Reform Judaism for nine years, teaching and coordinating Introduction to Judaism classes in the greater Washington, DC area. She was a Study Guide writer for The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, and worked as a chaplain with Jewish Social Services. She has served on the Boards of Directors of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Jews United for Justice, and was the Board Chair of Equality Maryland. Rabbi Bernstein was a member of the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of the DC area and is currently on the executive council of the Washington Board of Rabbis.

8:15 PM – 8:20 PM

8:20 PM – 9:00 PM
Group 4

Maharat Ruth Friedman HeadshotWhat Does it Mean to Be a Productive Member of Society?
Maharat Ruth Friedman
Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue

Session Description
Leviticus Chapter 27 provides the value of a human life, according to the metrics of gender and age. What do these numerical values teach us about the value of the individual to society, and ourselves?

About Maharat Ruth Friedman
Maharat Ruth Friedman is a member of the inaugural class of Yeshivat Maharat, which is the first institution to ordain Orthodox women as spiritual leaders and halakhic (legal) authorities. She serves as Maharat at Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue® in Washington, DC. Maharat Friedman’s responsibilities include overseeing the conversion program, supervising the operation of the community mikvah, directing adult education, providing pastoral counseling, teaching in the community, and more. She is a proud member of the Washington Boards of Rabbis, and sits on the Executive Committee of the board of the International Rabbinic Fellowship, of which she is also a member. Maharat Friedman is also a founding member of the Beltway VAAD. She and Yoni are the proud parents of their sons Ezra and Jobe, and their rambunctious dog, Cocoa.

Rabbi Steven ReinTeach us to Number our Days: Words of Wisdom on the 260th Yahrzeit of the Ba’al Shem Tov
Rabbi Steven Rein
Agudas Achim Congregation

Session Description
Shavuot marks the 260th yahrzeit of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the central figure of hassidic Judaism known throughout the Jewish world as the Ba’al Shem Tov. On the eve of Shavuot, the final night of his life, the Ba’al Shem Tov’s students were gathered close to him as he taught about the giving of the Torah. If we can learn anything from these final hours of the great hassidic master it is to live in the moment, to fill all of our time on this earth with purpose, and to embrace death as a part of life.

Source Materials: Handout

About Rabbi Steven I. Rein
Originally from Fairfield, New Jersey, Rabbi Steven I. Rein received his rabbinic ordination and M.A. in Talmud and Rabbinics from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is currently the rabbi at Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, VA. Rabbi Rein is also a reserve chaplain in the United States Air Force. Commissioned in 2005 he has served military members around the country. Rabbi Rein was promoted to Major in October 2017 and currently serves as the Jewish Chaplain for Arlington National Cemetery. He is on the board of the Den Collective, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and the Religious Leadership Advisory Board of JTS. In his spare time, Rabbi Rein is an avid fan of the New York Yankees and New Jersey Devils. Rabbi Rein is married to Jodi Hirsch Rein, Principal of Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, VA. He and Jodi have two children, Ari and Ilan.

Rabbi Avi StrausbergViolating Torah for G-d’s Sake
Rabbi Avi Strausberg
Hadar Institute

Session Description
While Psalms 119 teaches us that we must act for God because there are those who have violated God’s Torah, the rabbis of the Gemara upend this verse and teach that sometimes it is through violating God’s Torah that we serve God. What are the possible applications and limitations of this daring rereading of the rabbis? When do we act for God by preserving God’s Torah and when does acting for God demand that we violate the very Torah we seek to uphold?

Source Materials: Handout

About Rabbi Avi Strausberg
Rabbi Avi Strausberg is the Director of National Learning Initiatives at Hadar and is based in Washington, DC. She received her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College in Boston and is a Wexner Graduate Fellow. She also holds a Masters in Jewish Education. Energized by engaging creatively with Jewish text, she has written several theatre pieces inspired by the Torah and maintains a Daf Yomi haiku blog in which she writes daily Talmudic haikus.

Rabbi Abbi ShurofskyElu V’Elu: Holding My Faith in an Interfaith Context
Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky
JCRC of Greater Washington

Session Description
The well known line from Masechet Eruvin 13b, “These and those are the words of the living God” is often used to reconcile different opinions or ways of practice in Jewish tradition. It recognizes the validity of many points of view within Jewish thought. What does it mean for how we engage in interfaith dialogue and work? How can this text inform our faith when exploring the faith of others?

About Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky
Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky is the JCRC’s Director of Intergroup Relations and the JCRC Rabbi in Residence. She serves in volunteer leadership positions for several interfaith groups throughout Greater Washington, including the Faith Community Advisory Council of Montgomery County and the Interfaith and Equity committee for Fairfax County. Rabbi Sharofsky studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary and was ordained in 2012 and holds a Master’s degree from the Davidson School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary, specializing in experiential Jewish education. She is a board certified chaplain through the Veterans Administration hospital system. Rabbi Sharofsky was the deputy director of the Jewish Welfare Board Jewish Chaplains Council, where she worked with Jewish military personnel and veterans. Rabbi Sharofsky is the recipient of the 2016 JPRO Network Young Professional Award. She is a Rabbis Without Borders fellow, 2018 cohort. She lives in Silver Spring with her husband David Weisel and their two children.


May 25, 2020
6:00 pm - 9:30 pm


United States

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