SENIOR RABBI MEIR FELDMAN began his tenure at Temple Beth-El of Great Neck in July, 2009.
In the 1980’s and 90’s, Meir Feldman was employed as an associate at a prestigious Wall Street law firm and then as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles. He states, “If someone had told me then what my life would be like now, I would have never believed it.”
Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, the future rabbi “hated Hebrew school.” Judaism was not a meaningful part of his life as a young man. Although he graduated with honors from Brandeis University and served on law review at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law, he felt he “had no experience with Jewish learning or living.”
In his late 30’s, in Venice Beach, California, he took a break from his legal career. He participated in Shabbat dinners and began reading Martin Buber and Abraham Joshua Heschel. He visited Israel with friends and encountered inspiring Jewish teachers in Rabbis David Wolpe and Danny Gordis. Doubt in God, challenging authority, asking big questions, demanding that life have meaning, these were some of the critical and transformative moments of his Jewish learning. Rabbi Meir writes, “I remember that in my application to rabbinic school I wrote, ‘In my Jewish learning, my intellect meets my soul.'”
During his years as a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, Meir Feldman served for a year as a CLAL Intern with Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform rabbinical students. In fall 2001, he started the bi-weekly Park Slope Friday Night Minyan. From 2002-2004, he served as a Marshall T. Meyer Rabbinic Fellow at the Upper West Side’s B’nai Jeshurun. After leaving New York, Tara and Meir served in separate Associate Rabbi positions at Temple Israel in Memphis.
They left Memphis in January 2008 and headed to Israel for an experience of a lifetime. As Rabbi Meir relates, “Our kids were in school, like ‘normal’ Israeli kids. The backyard of our apartment was one of the most special gardens in Jerusalem. It’s called Gan Hashoshanim, the Rose Garden. For Tara and me, it was very special for our kids to feel so attached and comfortable in that place. Our first meeting, in 1996, had been in that garden.”
In June 2011, Rabbi Meir Feldman wrote, “We’ve now been part of the Beth-El family for an extraordinary 24 months. We’ve already achieved some wonderful things. We feel so connected to so many people. After two High Holy Days seasons, dozens of b’nei mitzvah, weddings and baby-namings, too many hospital visits and funerals, monthly board and committee meetings, ‘Jew High’ on Tuesday nights, Adult B’not Mitzvah, our amazing new Mitzvah of the Month program, Hebrew Marathons, and Morning Minyans, we feel luckier today than when we arrived. Tara and I are the most fortunate senior rabbis in the country. Our community’s success in the Litwin Family Campaign is a beautiful expression of the deep feelings of support, enthusiasm, and excitement that we feel every day.
“My goal is that Temple Beth-El live up to its mission. Where do we turn to explore the big questions in life? What do I believe? What does it mean when I say: ‘I do [or don’t] believe in God?’ What is my mission? Am I fulfilling that mission? Is there a claim calling to me from beyond? What do I want for our children and grandchildren? There are so many profound questions. TBE should be the place we turn to when we feel the need to explore the big questions.
“The synagogue cannot be a place for monotonous ritual or trivial platitudes. It’s a place for deep questions and genuine dialogue. It’s a place to become Yisrael (Israel), ‘one who struggles with God.’ If you’re a God struggler, Beth-El will surely be a comfortable Jewish home. If you’re looking for a place to deepen your joy and to provide others with genuine support, Beth-El will be a wonderful home. Our temple is also the place where we come together to make a difference in the world, to receive the gift of feeding hungry people, to feel the privilege of helping children learn to read, to speak out, in an organized and compelling way, about injustices and social causes that are the core of Jewish living and learning.”
“I so much look forward to our spending time together.”