“As a lover of Israel and a liberal, I stand before you having felt stuck and sometimes alienated by the land I love. It feels like many Israeli policies concerning the Diaspora, Jewish identity, religious pluralism, conversions or marriage by non-Orthodox rabbis and other issues devalue the Jewish communities outside Israel. It feels like Israel assumes I will support the country no matter what it does.”
So says Rabbi Greg Harris in a warm, honest and sometimes painful sermon for the 2018 High Holidays. He grapples with his many different identities –liberal, Jew, rabbi, Zionist — and how to honor and be true to them all without being forced into arbitrary binary choices.
One way he and Congregation Beth El have chosen is to link up with other like-minded congregations in a campaign, “called the Campaign for Jewish Values in Israel. While each congregation is implementing it in their own way, it is a joint effort to connect directly with Israel and support amazing NGOs having a positive impact on Israel’s civil society…I am tired of those who say I ‘can’t do’. This is a chance for us ‘to do’, to impact, to support Israel and to help Israel become its best self,” says Rabbi Harris.
We are thrilled that the Masorti Foundation was chosen as one of the NGOs receiving support because of our work nurturing religious pluralism in Israel.
Rabbi Greg Harris
Congregation Beth El
Rabbi Harris was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2002. He was the recipient of the Dr. Michael Higger Prize in Talmud from JTS. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from The American University in Washington, D.C. Rabbi Harris has been a Schusterman Rabbinic PEER Fellow and a Washington Partnership Fellow. Before returning to the Washington area, he was on faculty at New York’s 92nd Street Y, was the staff Jewish Chaplain for the Momentum AIDS Project and worked as a chaplain at Beth Israel Hospital.
Beyond his responsibilities at the congregation, Rabbi Harris has served as President of the Washington Board of Rabbis and is currently the Chair of the Pastoral Care Committee at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, serves on the Community & Global Impact Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and is a past Board member of Interfaith Works, a non-profit organization working with at-risk families in Montgomery County. He also sits on the Domestic Violence Interfaith Coalition of Montgomery County. He is the founding chairperson of the Tomorrow Fellowship Jewish Communal Leadership Program. He is the 2015 recipient of the Matthew H. Simon Rabbinic Leadership Award from JFGW.